If we needed an advertisement for a five-match bilateral T20I series, and one on the back of a 74-match IPL, this is it.
We’ve seen the hosts go down 2-0 with a middle order that looked like it couldn’t get it together, and then coming back to win their last two, must-win games with finishers who dominated a much-vaunted visiting attack. India have the momentum but South Africa have enough reason to snatch it away. South Africa came into this series on the back of a highly successful T20I run, and had won 11 of their last 12 games. They found unlikely heroes and continued to in the first two matches, underlining that theirs is a team effort not a galaxy of superstars. Inevitably some have emerged in this series.
For South Africa, Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klaasen, won the first two matches despite few considering them T20I match-winners, and they’ve found room for two allrounders and two specialist spinners in an XI. Their team composition is showing signs of the creativity it once lacked, and their T20 approach has become more innovative. But their frontline bowlers have been lacking and that may be where the series could be won or lost. The likes of Kagiso Rabada, who sparkled at the IPL, and Anrich Nortje, who is coming back from injury, may want to have their say on that. Or they may not get to because the weather in Bengaluru does not appear to be playing ball, and if the series stays shared at 2-2, that won’t be so bad either.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LLWWW
In the spotlight
A South African side that has stopped relying on superstars seems to have dimmed the brightness of Quinton de Kock , who has not scored a T20I half-century in six innings since before last year’s T20 World Cup. In this series, de Kock missed two matches with injury and was run out after a mix-up with Dwaine Pretorius in the previous match, so he hasn’t had as much opportunity to make an impact as he might have liked. But South Africa need him if they want to have better, quicker starts. Their other opening batters, Temba Bavuma and Reeza Hendricks, both need some time to settle and are more about strike rotation than boundary-hitting, which makes de Kock’s role even more important.
India: (possible) 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
South Africa: (possible) 1 and 2 Quinton de Kock/Reeza Hendricks/Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 David Miller, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6 Dwaine Pretorius, 7 Marco Jansen/Wayne Parnell, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Lungi Ngidi/Tabraiz Shamsi
Pitch and conditions
Known for being a belter, thanks to small boundaries and a flat pitch the Chinnaswamy hasn’t hosted any white-ball cricket since before the pandemic, when it was known as a venue that produces runs and is unkind to spinners. But for that to happen, the players will have to get on the park. It’s been a wet build-up to the match, with heavy rain on Friday night, and drizzle throughout Saturday which affected the Ranji Trophy semi-finals on other grounds in the same city. There’s a 70% chance of rain on match day.
Stats and trivia
- The average first-innings score in T20Is at the Chinnaswamy is 155. In the 2019 season, the average first-innings score across completed IPL games is close – 154.
“Maybe it’s a lack of adaptability on the day which we need to go back and address. Obviously, it’s a big game on Sunday for the series, and we need to be a bit more proactive than reactive in these types of situations.”
Keshav Maharaj hopes South Africa can learn to adjust gameplans in the moment in the decider
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent