VISAKHAPATNAM: The run-up to India's five-match T20I series had TV advertisements highlighting the hosts being on the threshold of achieving a record 13-match winning streak, the most by a team in men's T20I cricket.
But as things stand now, after losing consecutive matches in New Delhi and Cuttack, India are in danger and under pressure of keeping themselves alive in the series when they face South Africa at the Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday.
Rishabh Pant & Co, in the absence of many regular players, have struggled to get the wins on their side despite some positives. With just a day's gap between Cuttack and Visakhapatnam T20Is, India don't have much time to regroup and aim for a comeback in the series.
In New Delhi, the bowlers were unable to defend 212 while in Cuttack, an unimpressive batting show on a difficult pitch coupled with bowlers barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar lacking the cutting edge, resulted in them losing the match by four wickets on Sunday.
In both matches, Ishan Kishan has boosted his credentials to be a permanent opening option while Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shreyas Iyer have inspired little confidence in their play against fast bowlers.
Hardik Pandya produced some stunning power-hitting shots in Delhi but was bamboozled by the movement from left-arm pacer Wayne Parnell in Cuttack, apart from going wicketless in both matches.
Captain Rishabh Pant fell twice while slashing outside the off-stump balls to fielders in the deep on the off-side and hasn't been able to impress netizens with his captaincy calls. Still in his early days of learning the ropes of captaincy, Pant would be itching to make improvements and showcase them in Visakhapatnam.
In bowling, India have a lot of problems. Barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar's 4/13, including three wickets in the first six overs at Cuttack, other pacers like Avesh Khan and Harshal Patel haven't given him the required backing.
Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel have been hugely disappointing as the duo conceded 75 and 59 runs collectively in both matches. Chahal and Patel have been unable to keep the likes of David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klassen under check, giving the South Africa trio easy chances to hit elegant boundaries.
South Africa, on the other hand, looked settled in all departments of the game and are yet to lose a game to India this year across all formats, especially in white-ball cricket. They have unearthed new match winners in both matches — an in-form Miller and van der Dussen in New Delhi while Klassen yet again proved to be India's nemesis at Cuttack.
Captain Temba Bavuma looks solid at the top-order and has handled his bowling resources like pacers Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi very well. South Africa go into Visakhapatnam high on confidence while India enter a do-or-die phase in the series.
Squads : India: Rishabh Pant (Captain & wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen (wicketkeeper), Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Marco Jansen and Tristan Stubbs. (IANS)
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