Cuttack : Handed a defeat in the first Twenty20 International, a determined India will look to plug the loopholes in bowling and bounce back in a must-win second T20 of the three-match series against South Africa at Cuttack on Monday.
It’s an unfamiliar situation for India to start a home series on a losing note, and the manner of the defeat in Dharamsala would put the hosts under tremendous pressure, especially the bowlers. Back after a break of three months, the onus would be on limited overs skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to bring the team out of the rut and ensure India get back to winning ways.
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Unlike Dharamsala, the conditions are expected to be ideal for Dhoni’s men at Cuttack and the third T20 in Kolkata as the surface is likely to be low and slow in nature with rains and thundershowers in past few days. Going into Monday’s match, there would be concern over the ground conditions. The Met department has also forecast a few spells of rain in the next 48 hours and possibility of a curtailed match cannot be ruled out.
In the series opener, Rohit Sharma’s maiden T20I century in an entertaining stroke-play along with Virat Kohli’s 43 meant India could not have asked for more from their batsmen who posted their highest score of 199 against the South Africans. But even their best was not sufficient as the bowling came a cropper, barring the four overs of Ravichandran Ashwin.
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Chasing a target of 200-odd runs, Hashim Amla (36) and AB de Villiers (51) laid the solid foundation before JP Duminy (68) and Farhaan Behardien (32) in an unbroken partnership of 105 saw the South Africans through with two balls to spare.
Duminy virtually won the battle in the 16th over when he smashed three successive sixes off Axar Patel’s bowling, snatching 22 runs in that over. It’s no secret that Dhoni prefers Axar Patel over Amit Mishra for the left-arm spinner’s hard-hitting capabilities lower down the order.
But legspinner Mishra who’s on a high after his 15 wickets from three matches in Sri Lanka, Dhoni may have a cutting edge in the slow conditions. Mishra and Ashwin bowling in tandem may sound a good option.