JOHANNESBURG - Shellshocked after three resounding defeats, and shorn of some star names, there is no respite for South Africa as they prepare to face India in the fourth One Day International (ODI) at the Wanderers, in Johannesburg, on Saturday.
The hosts have been beaten by six wickets, nine wickets and 124 runs in the three matches so far in the series, and now need to win the next three games on the bounce to take a share of the spoils. On current form, they face a monumental task.
Three issues in particular have plagued the Proteas: the imperious form of Virat Kohli (who averages an astonishing 318 in the series, including two centuries), the brilliance of India's wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal (who have taken 21 wickets between them – 11 more than South Africa have mustered as a team) and a succession of injuries to key players.
South Africa will have to continue to cope without the injured pair of Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock for the rest of the series, but will be buoyed by AB de Villiers' return to the squad following a finger injury. On Friday, a final decision had yet to be made on his fitness for this clash at the Wanderers, but the hosts will be desperate to include him if at all possible.
Aiden Markram will continue to deputise as captain and Heinrich Klaasen will remain behind the stumps whether De Villiers plays or not.
India have been unchanged throughout the series and it would be a surprise if they toyed with their line-up given their impressive form and the fact that top spot in the ODI team rankings is on the line.
While India's wrist-spinners have bamboozled South Africa so far in this series, India have played Imran Tahir with ease. The Proteas leggie, who sits at number one in the ODI bowling rankings, has only managed 1/133 runs, with Kohli seemingly able to hit Tahir's deliveries wherever he chooses.
Speaking at the toss before the first match in this series, Faf du Plessis said that when Tahir performs at his best the team also generally does well, and the stats back that up: the 38-year-old averages 19 with the ball when South Africa win, compared to 45 when they lose. The hosts need Tahir to come to the party if they are to salvage anything from this series.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma (vice-capt), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman
African News Agency