India may have already clinched the three-match T20I series against South Africa, but encounters in the lead up to a World Cup are about more than just results. They are iterative exercises toward yielding the ideal team combination.
Tuesday’s third and final T20I at the Holkar Stadium here will be India’s final such official attempt before the marquee ICC T20 World Cup begins in Australia later this month.
Of particular concern is the side’s bowling, with Jasprit Bumrah now ruled out of the World Cup and the need to find his replacement of paramount importance.
In Guwahati, every bowler’s figures, except Deepak Chahar’s, went north. The match was admittedly a high-scoring affair (458 runs), with both sets of bowlers chasing leather for much of the hot and humid evening, but the think tank is sure to feel the unease.
Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, after starting with two wickets in his opening over, went on to concede 62 runs.
Worryingly, he bowled three no-balls, and got hit for 13 runs off the resultant free-hits, including two sixes.
While skipper Rohit Sharma would hope for better returns from Arshdeep, Mohammed Siraj, a potential candidate to replace Bumrah – along with Chahar – will do well with an outing.
Vice-captain K.L. Rahul, though, seemed unperturbed by the bowlers’ travails.
“In this format, both batters and bowlers will have such [tough] days,” he said. “It’s high intensity and high risk. The conditions were tough and we played a lot of cricket on the go. Certain times the bodies are tired. [But] yes, it [bowling] is something we have to get better at and that will never stop.”
The batting, however, clicked perfectly. Rahul rediscovered his attacking mojo; Virat Kohli continued to present his rejuvenated self and Suryakumar Yadav enthralled yet again with his seemingly boundless energy and limitless stroke-making ability. Rahul and Kohli are set to be rested, but the jigsaw appears complete.
For South Africa, its top-order batting has to come good, lest the brilliant David Miller, who scored his second T20I century on Sunday, is left to do all of the heavy liftings. For the second straight game, Tenda Bavuma and Rilee Rossouw were out for ducks.
Bavuma’s in particular is a curious case. While he leads his National T20 team, he went unsold in the inaugural SA20 auction recently. The inspirational captain will hope for a statement innings.
Quinton de Kock’s half-century would have soothed a few nerves, for he had accumulated a paltry 68 runs from the previous eight innings.
South Africa’s bowling was ordinary on Sunday, with the exception of Keshav Maharaj.
But the expectation is for the well-rounded attack to come good.