Cape Town – After four failed prior attempts, South Africa have two tantalising opportunities in the next few days to make one-day international history for themselves in India.
Having secured a 2-1 lead in the five-match current bilateral series, just one more win in the remaining pair of contests – Chennai on Thursday and Mumbai on Sunday – will make AB de Villiers’s outfit the first SA team to beat India in their own backyard.
The country has previously only ever come up short of 50-overs series triumph in India, beginning with that poignant, isolation-ending 2-1 reverse under the leadership of the late Clive Rice in 1991/92.
India grabbed the spoils 3-2 in 1999/2000, the 2005/06 series was split 2-2 and in the last meeting in 2009/10 the scoreline was 2-1 in home favour.
Ironically, in that shared series of 2005/06, the intended third of five games was washed out at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, which is the same venue to be used for the day/nighter on Thursday (from 10:00 SA time).
At this stage, the forecast seems for hot, clear weather, so it looks as though the Proteas will get the chance to close the series deal at the first of those critical two attempts and render Sunday’s a pleasing, much more tension-free – at least for them – dead rubber.
South Africa have completed one prior ODI at the ground, although it wasn’t against the Indians and will not stir great memories – a nail-biting six-run loss to England at the 2011 World Cup.
In an unusually low-scoring affair by Indian pitch standards, the Proteas could only muster 165 all out in reply to the seemingly way sub-standard English total of 171.
By stark contrast, the only Test match South Africa have ever played at the venue was a run-fest stalemate in the 2008 series, with the game not extending to a fourth innings and major runs coming from Virender Sehwag (319), Hashim Amla (159), Neil McKenzie (155 not out) and Rahul Dravid (111).
The normally assertive Amla is the only member of that quartet who will be active in Thursday’s fixture, although he is in the midst of a mini-form slump having managed only 59 runs in three knocks in the series thus far and being just as unusually stumped on each of the last two occasions.
The collective composure and discipline of the SA bowling attack has been a strong feature of the first half of the series thus far, with lanky paceman Morne Morkel leading the charge: he is top wicket-taker across both sides with seven at an average of 18.85, and an economy rate of 4.40.
One good reason for the Proteas not to be complacent about the task required over the next few days is that it was only in July that they led Bangladesh 1-0 in their own environment, only to come a cropper in each of the next two and be nudged out 2-1 in the series.
This is a stab at significant glory; they ought to be hell-bent not to mess it up.
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