Having been taken to the cleaners by the likes of Reeza Hendricks and skipper Aiden Markram, the bowlers had a forgettable outing in Gqeberha and have short time to regather themselves ahead of the final game on Thursday.
Rain and dew did make their task a bit tough for the bowlers in the second game, especially the pacers, but they lacked imagination and control.
Among most severely punished was left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh, who went for 15.50 RPO in his 2 overs. His compatriot Mukesh Kumar too had a rough outing but managed to pick up a couple of wickets.
Arshdeep and Mukesh are the bowlers the management trusts to produce forceful efforts in the absence of seniors like Jasprit Bumrah. But this reserve bench hasn’t been able to vindicate that faith so far, many times finding themselves in deep waters.
In fact, the 4-1 score-line in the recent home T20I series victory over Australia has cleverly papered over some flaws in this bowling unit.
Arshdeep Singh had bowled a brilliant last over in the fifth T20I at Bengaluru at Aussies but that apart the pacer struggled to find his range in the series where he conceded 10.68 runs per over across four matches for as many wickets.
Mukesh seemed to have added a couple of yards of pace but the seamer was also largely unable to stop the flow of runs, and against the Australians he took four wickets from four matches but went for 9.12 runs per over.
The second T20I at Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizaberth) was a mere continuation of their travail and they need to pull their act together tomorrow to prevent a series loss in the early part of a tough tour.
With just four T20Is remaining ahead of the T20 World Cup, it is also imperative for them to keep themselves in the mix before the selectors turn their eyes elsewhere.
Ravindra Jadeja, who played a T20I after a hiatus of one year and four months, too was unimpressive at St George’s Park and the Indian vice-captain will be looking for a better outing here.
But then there is always another side to the coin. Rinku Singh continued to impress while making his first fifty in this format and he would be eager to finish on the winning side this time.
Suryakumar scored another fifty, and it was also a statement that the Indian captaincy sits lightly on him.
He would like to guide his side to a series-equalling triumph with his bat and leadership skills.
On that note, India will also expect a quick start from their openers Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal – unless Ruturaj Gaikwad recovers from his illness to return to pole position – something that has been central to India’s white ball template under head coach Rahul Dravid.
Both Gill and Jaiswal could not negate the extra bounce in the pitch in the last match while getting dismissed for a naught each.
However, Johannesburg is a venue where India have done well traditionally across all three formats and in T20Is they hold a 3-1 record in their favour.
South Africa too will have their own concern in the bowling department as pacers Gerald Coetzee, Marco Jansen, and Lungi Ngidi (injured as of now) will miss tomorrow’s match as they head to play in First-Class matches to prepare for the red-ball leg of the tour.
But banking on past records and opposition’s weak points alone will not work against an outfit like South Africa, as India, especially bowlers, need to find a way to fire in unison.
Teams: India: Suryakumar Yadav (Captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Ravindra Jadeja (VC), Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (captain), Ottniel Baartman, Matthew Breetzke, Nandre Burger, Donovan Ferreira, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Lizaad Williams.
Match starts at 8.30 PM IST.
(With inputs from PTI)