India would be eyeing a perfect end to what has been a thoroughly roller-coaster tour when they take on a depleted but not completely deflated South Africa in the decisive third Twenty20 International in Cape Town on Saturday.
Having suffered a minor setback in the previous game, India will look to recover and close out this eight-week long tour with a series’ win.
The three-match series is level at 1-1 after the Men in Blue won the first T20I in Johannesburg by 28 runs. The Proteas bounced back in Centurion with a six-wicket win.
India have never played T20 cricket at Newlands. This will be their first such outing, while South Africa have a less than impressive record here. They have played 8 T20Is, and lost 5 of them in Cape Town.
The two wins came in the 2007 World T20 and as such the hosts have only ever won a singular bilateral T20I game (against England in 2016) at Cape Town.
It doesn’t necessarily give the visitors an advantage. Through this limited-overs’ leg, South Africa have shown that they are more comfortable in the T20 setting, having won the rain-truncated Pink ODI as well as coming close while chasing 204 in the first match of this series, both at Wanderers.
Victory in the previous game will also be a reason for buoyancy in the Proteas’ dressing room. Stand-in skipper JP Duminy was adamant that they had well-set plans for Indian batsmen and bowlers since the start of this series but just needed proper execution as was showcased at Supersport Park.
It was seen in how the hosts made pointed changes in their bowling plans, and then took the attack to India’s bowlers.
Duminy had named an unchanged eleven in the previous game, and it remains to be seen if they will bother breaking away from this consistency in the series-decider.
Jon-Jon Smuts hasn’t come good yet despite his big-hitting prowess, while David Miller’s poor form has spilled over from the ODIs. He was persisted with throughout that series, so there is no reason to doubt that the Proteas’ team management will back him to come good at a crucial juncture.
Jasprit Bumrah’s abdominal strain had forced India to make a change, but they will consider a couple spots for this finale. Bumrah’s fitness still remains a question mark.
Will the team management risk playing him given the shortened time-frame of this match? The fact that there is a two-week gap before the tri-series begins in Sri Lanka might coerce them into this gamble.
The bowling combination is the other concern. India have shown a propensity to field a left-arm pacer in this format, but Jaydev Unadkat has proven expensive so far.