The action heads to the Highveld for the third time in India's tour of South Africa as the two sides collide on Friday in the final game of the six-match ODI series — only this one being the second dead rubber of the tour.
The tables, however, have spectacularly turned since the second Test that was played here in January, as the Virat Kohli-led side went on to win the third Test in Johannesburg, before pulling off a dominant show in the one-day series that saw them win every single game barring the pink ODI at the Wanderers.
With a series lead of 4-1 in hand, and knowing Kohli's aggressive tactics, there's every possibility of them aiming for a 5-1 result, one that will establish their superiority as a leading limited-overs outfit.
Kohli, however, did mention the possibility of resting a few personnel from the team that clinched the series in style at Port Elizabeth with a 73-run victory. Given the fact that there are quite a few individuals who have been playing continuously since the outset of the tour, Kohli is more than likely to give some of his team members a breather before the T20I leg of the tour kicks off this Sunday.
Among them would be the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, both of whom have had a lot of game time throughout the series, with the Indian think tank likely to rest at least one of the two. Bhuvneshwar for one, has not quite had the same touch in the one-day series so far as he did in the Tests, and could perhaps make way for Mohammed Shami. Bumrah has looked yards better, but could be given a breather to stay fresh for the T20Is if the management want to test Shardul Thakur on the Centurion surface.
As far as the spin department is concerned, the wrist-spin pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal has been a revelation in this series, accomplishing something that has rarely been witnessed on South African soil in the past — spin the Proteas batting order out in their own backyard.
With the SuperSport Park pitch being the venue that mirrors subcontinental conditions the most in South Africa, Kuldeep and Chahal would perhaps be relishing the prospect of bamboozling the hosts out once again with their googlies. If Kohli has his eyes set on the 5-1 scoreline, it is unlikely he will be letting go of either weapon.
The middle order has been another cause of worry for the Indians, with the side being somewhat excessively reliant on their top three. The likes of MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane and Hardik Pandya haven't quite been able to get settled at the crease and pick pace when needed, and will need to up their game in the final one-dayer. If there are changes to be made from the middle order, Shreyas Iyer could be make way for Kedar Jadhav, or be replaced by either Manish Pandey or Dinesh Karthik.
As far as the Proteas are concerned, the going has been a very tough one for young Aiden Markram, who found himself leading the Proteas barely a few months after making his international debut. A 1-5 hiding at the hands of the Indians will not only be an embarrassing recollection for him down the road, it could also dent his confidence as a batsman going ahead.
Chris Morris' recovery from a back niggle would be good news for the hosts. The all-rounder's services with the bat were missed in the previous game, in which Heinrich Klaasen found himself waging a lone battle once David Miller was removed. His return into the team give the Proteas the luxury of resting one of their frontline pacers — Morne Morkel, more than anyone else — in order to keep them fresh for the high-octane Australia tour that is to follow.
Klaasen, who earned his debut in the third one-dayer after the injury-forced exit of Quinton de Kock, will eye another big score in order to keep himself high up in the pecking order even if South Africa's first-choice wicket-keeper returns to the fold soon. Given that he seemed to read the spinners better than most of his colleagues in the previous games, the Indians will perhaps be making slight tweaks while bowling at him.
AB de Villiers, whose return in the fourth one-dayer seemed to infuse a fresh wave of energy into the team in the pink ODI, has not been able to deliver the goods in the two games that he has played so far, and will be looking to regain his rhythm at his home ground come Friday.
There are thunderstorms predicted on match-day, though it is expected to occur on either side of the game. The Indians, who go in as firm favourites once again, will certainly be hoping they can become the first team since Ricky Ponting's Australia in 2002 to inflict five or more losses on South Africa in an ODI series in the latter's backyard. The hosts, on the other hand, will hope a victory in a dead rubber will give them some mental edge going into the T20Is.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (c), Hashim Amla, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo.
Where: SuperSport Park, Centurion.
Time: 1 pm local | 4.30 pm IST