4th T20I: India look to draw level and keep series alive against SA

Pressure on Pant to deliver in must-win game for India

RAJKOT: With their mood lifted after a convincing 48-run win over South Africa in the third T20I at Visakhapatnam, a resurgent India will look to sustain the momentum at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday. A win at the Khanderi venue for them will square the scores 2-2 in the five-match series and set up a mouth-watering decider in Bengaluru on Sunday.

The traditional featherbed of a pitch here promises an exciting battle. It has rained sporadically for the past few days, with the sun playing hide and seek, but the good news is: as per the weather forecast for Friday, rain will stay away. Rishabh Pant and Rahul Dravid during a training session at SCA Stadium in Rajkot.

Diving into this series against a world-class team soon after going through a gruelling IPL, India struggled to match up to South Africa’s pace, going down 0-2 in three days’ time. Apart from Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya’s impressive form, nothing seemed to be going for Rahul Dravid’s boys. However, with their backs to the wall, the hosts found their top game just in the nick of time.

A show of aggression by Ruturaj Gaikwad (57 off 35 balls), Ishan Kishan (54 off 35 balls), Hardik Pandya (31 not out off 21 balls), India scored 179 for five in the last game, before penetrative spells by seamer Harshal Patel (4-25) and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (3-20) helped them to fold up the Proteas for just 131. The heartening feature of India’s face-saving win at the coastal town is the bounce back into form of Gaikwad and Chahal.

Gaikwad, who had scored a mere 63 runs in previous five Twenty20s, was under a bit of pressure. However, his first international half-century showed why he’s such a gun player in the shortest format. Leg-spinner Chahal was looking completely out of sorts since the playoff stage of the IPL and had conceded 75 runs in six overs in the first two games of this series, as the Proteas attacked him at will. However, at Visakhapatnam he came back in style, causing the downfall of Dwayne Pretorious, Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klaasen.

There are still a couple of areas of concern for Team India, though. Having scored just 40 runs in three games@13.33, star ‘keeper-bat Rishabh Pant, captain for this series, must be keen to get into his stride. The South Africans have cleverly got his number all three times by bowling to him slightly wide of the off stump, thus forcing him to reach out and hit in the air.

In an encouraging sign for South Africa, their best batsman, ‘keeper and opener Quinton de Kock, who has been out of action after the first game in Delhi due to a wrist injury, was seen practising on match-eve. Markram goes back homeMeanwhile, South Africa batsman Aiden Markram has been ruled out of the remaining two T20Is and has gone back home after he tested positive for Covid at the start of the series. Markram underwent seven days of quarantine but will not be able to play in the final two matches, said Cricket South Africa.