Rishabh Pant led India ticked almost all the check boxes against South Africa in the third T20I, winning by 48 runs, to keep the five-match series alive. The focus now is on Rajkot, and it is another must win situation for the team in blue. A much-changed India took a bit of a battering in the second game, especially, before registering a win, and will look to keep the momentum going.
Much like the third game, in Rajkot, Pant and Rahul Dravid will want the team to be at their attacking best with the bat and their most miserly selves with the ball. Stop South Africa and pick up a win, means the momentum shifts massively ahead of the decisive fifth game. Also, ahead of an important tour of England, where India will play three ODIs and T20Is with the hosts. And two T20s in Ireland, where Hardik Pandya will lead.
If Ruturaj Gaikwad found his groove with the half-century in Vizag, there can be no better news for the Indian team. He and Ishan Kishan are good at giving India the fast start in the powerplay, setting it up for the big hitters after that.
However, there has been a little concern with Shreyas Iyer, who has found the short-fast one difficult to deal with. He is followed by the likes of Pant, Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik, which means Iyer is important in terms of closing out one end.
Unless the management decide to give Shreyas a rest, it is unlikely that the batting will be tinkered with. However, it is essential for Pant to get some big runs in the home stretch of the series, as it can completely change the complexion of the situation.
Led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal, the Indian bowling attack was in sublime form on Day 3 of the series. Harshal Patel got his variations going too and the spinners, who had been expensive were on the money.
Bhuvi as usual was accurate and tough to get away, bowling with good pace at the top, during the powerplay. His opening partner Avesh Khan though has not been able to bag the wickets he would have liked, but has supported Bhuvi and the rest ably, not giving away freebies to the South Africans.
In Rajkot, Pant and Dravid will want more of that and especially want to see more of Chahal’s guile bamboozling the Proteas batters.
If India want switch things up a little and rotate the bowlers, Umran Malik could get a look in for Avesh, while the other option is also the left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, who is better suited to leaking less runs in the end overs.
Whichever way one looks at it, the Indian team have a happy headache in terms of selection, if the form continues to be good.
Predicted XI: Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer/Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Harshal Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Avesh Khan/Arshdeep Singh