When South Africa last came to New Delhi for the T20I series opener in June, they were greeted by an intense heatwave where the temperature breached 45 degrees mark on certain days. Cut to October now, and the Proteas will be back in New Delhi to play the ODI series decider against India at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Tuesday. But this time, instead of scorching heat, it will be the rain threat which will be looming over the series decider, apart from the possibility of a truncated match. India’s national capital has recording 121.7 mm of rain in first ten days of the current month, resulting in water-logged roads and traffic thrown into chaos.

Though the weather forecast shows less of scattered rain and more of sunshine on Tuesday, with the ground covered due to heavy rain in last 72 hours, one can expect a pitch which will have some moisture around and assist the fast bowlers.

With India’s emphatic seven-wicket victory over South Africa in Ranchi setting the stage for a winner-takes-it-all clash in New Delhi, many cricket fans have been nervously scrolling through weather apps and making earnest prayers to the Almighty for Tuesday’s match to go smoothly without any interruption.

For India, a victory on New Delhi’s return to hosting an ODI match after three years, will continue their winning juggernaut in the format which began after co-incidentally losing a three-match series in South Africa earlier this year.

The ODIs against South Africa have been a reminder of the quality and depth of white-ball players in India though captain Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill haven’t produced substantial contributions yet.

If Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer and Shardul Thakur shined bright in Lucknow despite the narrow nine-run loss, then it was Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Mohammed Siraj’s turn to power India to a series-levelling win.

Iyer, in particular, has been making some serious noise through his form in ODIs this year making 458 runs in nine innings at an average of 57.25. He has made runs against the West Indies in Ahmedabad and then in the Caribbean, followed by looking pristine in his counter-attacking fifty in Lucknow and a magnificent 113 not out in Ranchi against South Africa.

Irrespective of how he fares in New Delhi, where he got his first international cap in 2017, Iyer has emerged as a serious contender for grabbing middle-order spots ahead of the ODI World Cup in India next year.

With the ball, India corrected their mistakes from Lucknow by stifling the South African run-flow in the back end of the innings. Despite Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks making 70s, India’s bowling attack, especially Siraj shining with 3/38 executed slower balls and straighter lines to perfection.

It resulted in India giving away only 57 runs in the last ten overs. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav and debutant Shahbaz Ahmed were impressive in Ranchi while posing questions to South Africa batters.

South Africa, on the other hand, badly need a win on Tuesday to put themselves back on track for direct qualification for next year’s ODI World Cup. A narrow win in Lucknow gave them the vital ten points, but a loss in Ranchi, with dew hampering them in defence of 278, gave them a setback on the quest for direct qualification.

Currently at 11th place in the Super League points table, South Africa’s aim will be to now sign off from the tour of India with a win and get those crucial ten points before flying to Australia to focus on their Men’s T20 World Cup campaign.

The visitors’ will be buoyed by the runs made by Markram and Hendricks apart from David Miller in the form of his life and Heinrich Klaasen capable of producing the big hits. If Temba Bavuma, who sat out of Sunday’s match in Ranchi, is fit enough to take the field in New Delhi, South Africa will be praying for him to get some vital runs under his belt before T20 World Cup arrives, provided the rain stays away.


India: Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer (vice-captain), Rajat Patidar, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Shahbaz Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Mohammed Siraj and Washington Sundar.

South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi.


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By Dipak

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