Aiden Markram’s men secured a thrilling five-wicket win at Johannesburg has set up an exciting finish with two games remaining with India currently leading the six-match series 3-1.
Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of the penultimate ODI.
HAVE SOUTH AFRICA COME TO TERMS WITH WRIST-SPIN?
It was India’s two wrist-spinners who were at the forefront as the visitors stormed to victories in the first three one-dayers. They were completely on top of the Proteas batsmen as they shared 21 wickets between themselves. However, at Johannesburg, both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav came in for some heavy punishment as South Africa romped to victory.
They did have a wet outfield to contend with which made the task of gripping the ball just a bit harder but it remains to be seen if they will be able to repeat their heroics from the first three ODIs.
INDIA’S MIDDLE-ORDER WOES
When India’s middle-order was finally called to action at Johannesburg, they floundered. From a position of strength at 200-2 in 34 overs, India came undone in the death overs as they finished with 289-7 on the board.
Virat Kohli will want the likes of MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya to step up to the plate when it comes to acceleration in the death overs. Both have been subdued with the bat in hand so far and it was what cost the Men in Blue in the fourth ODI.
HOSTS RIDING CONFIDENCE WAVE
The Proteas looked dead and buried at 3-0 with injuries to key personnel only compounding matters. However, AB de Villiers’ return and victory in front of a packed house at the Wanderers on PinkDay will do the confidence in the dressing room a world of good.
Expect the hosts to be a different beast altogether with confidence pumping through their veins again.
KEDAR/IYER DILEMMA FOR KOHLI
One headache for Kohli going into Port Elizabeth will be deciding who bats in the number five position. Shreyas Iyer played in the last game but he did not fare well, scoring just 18. He was also guilty of dropping a sitter off David Miller which proved to be huge turning point in the game.
It was Kedar Jadhav who was preferred in the first three matches but he got only one opportunity to bat, managing to notch just a single run to his name. His part-time off-spin provides something different though than the wrist-spinners and that could be the deciding factor given how the latter fared at Durban.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has emerged as an injury doubt for Tuesday’s Twenty20 against England in Wellington.
Williamson revealed at his pre-match press conference that he was feeling soreness in his back, with batsman Henry Nicholls called up as a precaution.
“I’ve got a few niggles, a little bit of niggling in my back… Henry is in as cover for those reasons,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to taking a full part in training and hope I should be fit for tomorrow.”
Williamson’s opposite number, England skipper Eoin Morgan, has question marks over his involvement after missing the previous match against Australia.
Morgan injured his groin during training at the MCG and then joined his team on a frustrating travel day across the Tasman Sea, with a five-hour delay in Melbourne airport followed by three-and-a-half hours in the air.
He will be assessed by medical staff before any decision is made.
“Morgs is a big player for them, the leader of the group, but at the same time they’ll be backing their depth.
“They have lots of exciting, talented players and with Jos stepping up (from vice-captain) they be backing themselves.”
Only one of New Zealand or England can join Australia in the final of the tri-series, with Australia winning the curtain-raiser against the Black Caps followed by back-to-back games against Morgan’s men.
“It’s a big opportunity for us and for England,” he said.
“We want to get on the board in the tri-series and it’s very important we play good cricket.
“We know England are a dangerous side; Australia have got off to a great start and come up with the wins but that doesn’t make England any less dangerous.”
England are crossing their fingers over the fitness of captain Eoin Morgan after swapping Australia for New Zealand, where they will hope to relocate their Twenty20 mojo.
The tourists finally ended their winter-long stay in Australia on Sunday, a trip that saw them lose the Ashes 4-0 and then gain a measure of revenge with a 4-1 success in the 50-over campaign – though batsman Dawid Malan is the only player who can claim to have been present throughout.
They signed off with back-to-back defeats in the triangular T20 series and now face two games against the Black Caps with a place in the Auckland final on the line.
What role the skipper will play is uncertain after he pulled out of Saturday’s seven-wicket defeat with a groin injury sustained in training on the eve of the match.
A lengthy and disruptive travel day left him little opportunity for rest – England were delayed for five hours at the airport in Melbourne due to low-lying fog in Wellington – and he will be assessed by medical staff ahead of nets on Monday.
Morgan has been going through a lean run of form with bat in hand but is still the country’s most experienced T20 cricketer and an on-field general whose calm authority and decision-making contributed heavily to the team’s one-day success.
“Morgs has been a class act for England for many years and if he’s out he’s a big miss,” said leg-spinner Adil Rashid ahead of Tuesday’s match in Wellington.
“He’s a leader, he’s our captain and he has been for the past three years. He’s done a tremendous job and he gives us input on and off the field – even Saturday he was there with information, where needed.
“He captains really well, he’s clued into the game and he would be a big miss, so hopefully he’ll be back playing in a couple of days.”
Rashid is arguably England’s most important bowler in a format which increasingly emphasises, rather than undercuts, the effectiveness of wrist spin.
He took more wickets than any of his team-mates in the ODI series, racking up 10 scalps despite never quite settling into a groove, and assumes senior status in the absence of the rested Moeen Ali.
Yet he was barely able to make an impression against Australia, who asked England to bat first on both occasions and were left with straightforward chases of 156 and 138.
A chronic lack of scoreboard pressure left him little room for manoeuvre at the MCG and he was bullied by Glenn Maxwell to the tune of 20 runs in one over.
“It has been frustrating,” he admitted.
“Defending 130-odd when you come on to bowl is pretty hard work for the bowlers. Batsmen don’t play with any pressure when they need six or seven an over. In Twenty20 cricket that is fairly easy.”
“We set ourselves high standards but in these past two games we haven’t quite got it right.”
Rashid will be looking to win the battle of spin against fellow leggie Ish Sodhi and slow left-armer Mitchell Santner – who occupy the lofty heights of third and first in the ICC’s T20 bowling rankings.
The Yorkshireman sits 26th, with England’s highest placed bowler Chris Jordan in 15th, but is unconcerned about such matters.
“We don’t look at people’s rankings or where they are. We just look to play the ball, not the bowler,” he said.
“If they come on I’m sure we’ll have the aggressive mindset of looking to take them down, even if it is number one and number three in the world.”