Faced with a do-or-die situation after their crushing 141-run defeat in the first match, India look to turn around their fortunes with an improved show, especially in the bowling department as they take on South Africa.

 

The Indians, licking their wounds after an embarrassing defeat in Johannesburg, have been left with no other option but to win on Sunday to stay afloat in the three-match series which has been dedicated to anti-apartheid icon and former president Nelson Mandela.

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They were greeted by overcast conditions at this eastern coastal city which has been experiencing rain for the past week. Although there was talk that the pitch at Kingsmead stadium will be more to the Indians' liking, the lack of sun will surely have a bearing in some manner.

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The whole of South Africa is mourning following the sad demise of Mandela and the Indian team, for once, would be hoping that their opponents are distracted. The visitors though have other things to be concerned about, most of all, their bowling. That it was their weakest link has been known to one and all. However, the audacity with which Quinton de Kock, AB de Villers and JP Duminy butchered the Indian bowlers mystified many.

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Poor bowling is one thing, and youngsters tend to learn and adapt as the game progresses. But they were not allowed to settle down as the South African batsmen plundered runs almost at will in Johannesburg. One of the main reasons for the carnage-like experience in Johannesburg was due to lack of pace in the bowling of the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma. Add short bowling and poor control to it, and the South African batsmen had it easier than net practice.

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Only Mohammed Shami, during his opening spell, seemed to have some uneasy deliveries for de Kock and Hashim Amla, as he has more pace. And that is precisely what the Indian bowlers were lacking on that Wanderers pitch as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel extracted pace and bounce by their fast stuff later that day.

Perhaps the Indian team think-tank made a mistake by leaving out Umesh Yadav. He is the quickest bowler of the lot and has a fair bit of experience of playing overseas as well. If the overcast conditions here persist and the pitch turns out similar to the last game, Yadav could take Bhuvneshwar Kumar's place in playing eleven. If not, the two spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, will be hoping that they have a better role to play other than just fill up overs and get hit for runs.

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South Africa, on the other hand, might look at leg-spinner Imran Tahir for a place in playing XI on Sunday. Also, in his post-match comments, South African skipper AB de Villiers talked about 'flirting with the idea of playing seven batsmen, with Graeme Smith opening and Quinton de Kock batting at number three'.

A drier, flatter pitch could see South Africa turn out with that combination and it will be a boost to Smith's flagging ODI career. However, it will have to be seen if they would disturb a batting combination that has scored 358 runs on a pitch that was not tailor-made for a 300-plus total.

That also absolves the Indian batsmen of some fault in the first ODI. They were never really going to chase 359 runs, not on that wicket. This was not a sub-continental sleeping beauty, where the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli could just swagger their way to a mesmerizing win.

The Wanderers pitch was a demon in the hands of true-bred fast bowlers, with Steyn and company using it so. The fact that Sharma, who has been on a sizzling run with an ODI double hundred plus another and two Test hundreds on the trot, took 16 deliveries to get bat on ball against Steyn, says it all.

Basically, the Indian batsmen needed to play for time, get used to conditions in the light of not having played a practice game here prior to ODI series, and use that innings as an exercise to build-up for the next two matches as well as the rest of the tour.

Sadly, they couldn't do it in the first match. Maybe, they will be ready mentally for the second match on Sunday. Ahead of the first ODI, Dhoni had spoken about pressure on the team that loses in Johannesburg. He had said that there would not by any time to recover for the side who loses the opening match. Now, he and his players will be fighting for survival on Sunday.

The Teams (From): 

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane.

South Africa: A B de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), J P Duminy, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, RyanMcLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander,Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

 (JPN/Agencies)

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