Rampant South Africans will look to wrap up the series dedicated to the memory of Mandela

In a city with its distinctly Indian air thanks to an overwhelming presence of people, who arrived primarily as indentured labourers aboard ships that sailed out from Madras and Calcutta (as Chennai and Kolkata were respectively called then) about 150 years ago, M.S. Dhoni’s men will search for a salvaging triumph to stay alive in the three-match ODI series.

Just like those millions, who fought against all odds to strike roots and eventually flourish in Durban, India has to find a way to quell a rampant Dale Steyn and his pace colleagues while the Proteas would do their best to wrap up a series that is now according to a Cricket South Africa press-release, a dedication to the ‘memory of Nelson Mandela.’

The second game at the Kingsmead Stadium here on Sunday, a day match aimed at getting the crowds in, presents an opportunity for India to try and erase the scars suffered through a 141-run defeat against South Africa at Johannesburg on Thursday.

Insiders say that due to the intermittent rains out there, the wicket could not be prepared the way it was meant to be and that it was too ‘sporting’ and offered much more for the fast bowlers but the Indian seamers were excessively inspired by the green tinge and erred in pitching it short.

The opening spells of Mohit Sharma (6-0-28-0) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-0-26-0) negated Dhoni’s decision to field first and though Mohammad Shami (three for 68) relatively bowled better, overall it was a picture of radars gone wrong. Even the spinners — R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja — faced the heat from the Proteas.

No easy runs

It would be easy to belittle the Indian batting but credit has to be given to Steyn for the way he tested Rohit Sharma, a batsman in prime form and with an ODI double-ton under his belt. The scrutiny from the fast bowlers — six of them at that — was unrelenting and with Jacques Kallis being the last in that pack, there was no scope for easy runs.

Yet, the worry would be that the musical-chairs number four slot that has been occupied by either Suresh Raina or Yuvraj Singh over the last month, has meant that after the top-order there are pockets of uncertainty before Dhoni steps in.

India has to click fast but it is up against AB de Villiers’ men who are fired by their desire to make amends for two ODI series losses at home against New Zealand and Pakistan and also have the solemn wish to do something special in a week that has seen grief, remembrance and pride swell across the ‘Rainbow Nation’ due to Mandela’s demise. “Let us now, more than ever, stick together as a Nation! We owe him that much. Madiba, you will be missed!,” de Villiers had tweeted on Thursday night.

Weighty batting

The South Africans will be heartened with their weighty batting performance in the opening game with 20-year-old Quinton de Kock holding his own among the seniors. Graeme Smith meanwhile has returned home to train for the Test series.

India has never won an ODI against the Proteas in Durban while England and Kenya were nailed during a dream-run in the 2003 World Cup. The visitors need to improve their record at a venue where inside a hall with wooden panels, names like `Naidoo’, `Subramoney’ and `Govender’ feature in teams that have represented the Natal province. The wet weather though has been a dampener but still, India would want to leave a deeper footprint on an outfield that for now is soggy.

Team salutes Mandela

Meanwhile, Virat Kohli paid rich tributes to the late Nelson Mandela.

“I got to know after the game (Thursday’s ODI) that he had passed away. It was a very sad feeling. I was shocked and I didn’t really know that he was ill. It was a sad moment for everyone, all around the world, (as) he has changed the face of this country and the change he brought about was something that no one else had done before. “He has done a lot not only for South Africa but for everyone and it is a sad feeling. We were in shock when we got to know about it and our condolences to everyone related to him,” Kohli said.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma and Amit Mishra.

South Africa: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, J-P Duminy, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Umpires: Richard Illingworth and Shaun George; Third umpire: Adrian Holdstock; Match referee: Andy Pycroft.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m. IST.

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