India’s indomitable cricket team looks set for a landmark series triumph but an injury- ravaged South Africa would hope for some A B de Villiers magic to halt the visitors’ charge in the fourth one-dayer, in Johannesburg on Saturday.
With an unassailable 3-0 lead in hand, India need just one more win to claim their maiden ODI series triumph on the South African soil.
The closest they came was in 2010-11, when under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they shot into a 2-1 lead only to lose the five- match series 3-2.
India had previously broken into unchartered territory at Newlands when, for the first time since they began touring here in 1992-93, they won three matches in a bilateral ODI engagement in South Africa.
No.1 spot at stake
A fourth consecutive win will also cement their spot as the no.1 side in ICC ODI Rankings.
Before the third ODI, Shikhar Dhawan had highlighted that the team wants to win every game ahead of them, building on victory in the third Test here, and there would be no complacency in the dressing room.
Indeed then, Virat Kohli lifted his side to another dominant win with an immaculate 34th ODI century and later spoke of replicating the same intensity to wrap up the series with two matches remaining.
The Kul-Cha effect
The fact that Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have now accounted for 21 out of 30 available wickets is also a driving force behind this confidence.
Despite practicing with at least five different local wrist spinners at Newlands, the Proteas’ batting line-up still couldn’t contend with India’s first-choice spin duo.
Whether this will change on Saturday remains to be seen.
De Villiers return to squad
South Africa may have slight cause for optimism as de Villiers was, on Thursday, added to their ODI squad for the remainder three matches.
The star batsman was ruled out of the first three ODIs owing to a finger injury he had sustained during the third Test.
However, the hosts are still circumspect about his chances of playing and as such Cricket South Africa didn’t send out any official media information ahead of this game.
De Villiers will be assessed on Friday afternoon — 24 hours before the game — and a call will then be made on his availability for the match.
If he is fit and available, it is expected that de Villiers will bat at no.3 with JP Duminy dropping down to no.4 thus. One of David Miller or Khaya Zondo will make way for him in the playing eleven.
Unsurprisingly, despite the downturn, Aiden Markram will continue leading the side.
This match is of vital importance for South Africa in their home season. It is the ‘Pink ODI’, played for the awareness against breast cancer and for the benefit of those suffering from the disease.
It was first held in 2011, and this will be the sixth such occasion. In fact, the Proteas have never lost when playing in their unique pink jersey.
De Villiers has a handsome record on Pink Days. In 2015, he had smashed 149 off just 44 balls against the West Indies.
In 2013, when India were first part of this Pink Day celebration, de Villiers had scored 77 off 47 balls.
South Africa had amassed 358/4 on a Wanderers’ wicket full of pace and bounce, and India had lost by 141 runs.
That day Rohit Sharma had struggled against the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, scoring just 18 off 43 balls. The opener’s travails have extended to this tour as well.
In 11 ODIs now in South Africa, the three-time double centurion averages a paltry 12.10. His form is the only pressing concern for the Indian team, yet not so much that he will be left out of the playing eleven.
With the Men in Blue looking to wrap up the series, Kohli is expected to field an unchanged line-up once again.
India have an average record at this ground. In seven ODIs here, they have won thee and lost four, including the infamous 2003 World Cup final against Australia.
Also, as opposed to their unbeaten Test record against South Africa here, India have lost 3 out of 4 ODIs they have played against the hosts at Wanderers.
Their only cause for cheer against the Proteas here came in January 2011, when Munaf Patel took 4-29 to lead India to a thrilling one-run win.
Thanks to Kohli’s imperious consistency and the terrorising form of their wrist spinners, that lopsided record might just be about to change.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (capt), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), AB de Villiers.