Virat Kohli chases greats and other talking points as India aim to clinch T20I series against South Africa

Ashish Peter 20/02/2018
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Kohli is sight of overhauling Sir Don Bradman's feat from 1930.

A series win will be at stake for India when they take on South Africa in the second of the three-match T20I series at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.

Having taken a 1-0 lead courtesy of a 28-run win at the Wanderers, Virat Kohli’s men could inflict further misery on the out-of-sorts hosts who were on the receiving end of a 5-1 thumping in the ODI series.

Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash.

KOHLI CHASES LEGENDS

With a staggering 870 runs in the Tests, ODIs and T20Is so far on the tour, Kohli is in line to break Don Bradman’s feat of scoring 974 runs on a single tour. The legendary Australian had notched those runs in five Tests against England in 1930. If Kohli does indeed overtake Bradman, it would put him in second position on the all-time list.

If he can get 130 runs more in the remaining two games, he could become only the second batsman in history after Viv Richards to breach the 1000-run mark in one tour. The West Indies great had registered 1,045 runs during the 1976 tour of England.

Kohli could be in company of the greatest the game has seen.

Kohli could be in company of the greatest the game has seen.

TWIN-SPIN THREAT ON CARDS AGAIN FOR PROTEAS

In the first T20I, India had lined up with one specialist spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal. With Centurion largely being on the slower side throughout the tour, expect Kohli to line up with two spinners on Wednesday.

That would mean a return to the side for Kuldeep Yadav who was sensational in the ODI series or Axar Patel, who has not had a single look-in on the tour so far. With a series win at stake, the former will be the front-runner to come in.

All of it could spell further trouble for the Proteas who could be in for another trial by spin.

Kuldeep could be in line to return at Centurion.

Kuldeep could be in line to return at Centurion.

IYER OR PANDEY DILEMMA FOR KOHLI

It was Manish Pandey who was preferred ahead of Shreyas Iyer at the Wanderers and though the former remained unbeaten on 29 runs, it came at almosta  run-a-ball. Most notable was his inability to find the boundaries as he struggled to stamp home India’s authority after a brilliant set-up by the top-order. Pandey’s struggle to find his timing meant that the onus of upping the ante fell on MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya.

This could mean a return for Iyer into the squad on Wednesday though the youngster himself hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his performances in the ODIs. If he gets the nod, he will need to step up big time or risk being marginalised from the limited-overs squad.

Pandey just couldn't find the boundaries in the death overs.

Pandey just couldn’t find the boundaries in the death overs.

HOSTS UNDER FIRE TO DELIVER

After the disappointment of the ODI series, the Proteas hit the refresh button for the T20Is with the big guns being rested for the upcoming Test series against Australia.

A new look side led by JP Duminy failed to bring any change in fortunes in the series opener and with India smelling blood, things could get worse for the hosts come, especially with AB de Villiers being sidelined once again with an injury.

With their backs against the wall, expect the Proteas to come out firing as they seek to avoid the ignominy of another home series defeat.

South Africa truly have their backs against the wall.

South Africa truly have their backs against the wall.

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England star Alex Hales joins Adil Rashid in snubbing first-class cricket for county

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Hales has signed only a limited-overs contract extension with his side.

Alex Hales has become the second England player in less than a week to turn down a red-ball cricket contract with his County outfit.

The swashbuckling England batsman has signed only a limited-overs cricket deal with Nottinghamshire. The new deal is for a period of two years.

Just last week, leg-spinner Adil Rashid had turned down a first-class cricket contract with his county side Yorkshire for 2018.

“Alex is entitled to make himself available for whatever format he wants to play, and we respect his decision. He’s an outstanding white ball player and we look forward to him helping us win more trophies in that format of the game,” said Nottinghamshire’s director of cricket Mick Newell.

The decision to do so, Hales said, had come after a long period of contemplation.

“For the next 18 months I’m excited to focus entirely on limited overs cricket and want to be part of a Notts Outlaws team that retains the white ball double,” Hales said in a statement.

“It was a fantastic year for the club last year, and I believe we can have more success in the future with the players we have at our disposal. I’m also hoping to be part of a World Cup-winning squad with England.

“The decision to focus on my white-ball game wasn’t taken lightly or on the spur of the moment, it’s one I’ve thought long and hard about. It’s also one I’ve discussed at length with the Notts management. I’d like to thank them for their continued support.

The 29-year-old has played 11 Tests for England over the course of his career with his last red-ball appearance coming in August 2016 against Pakistan at the Oval.

He is however a vital component of England’s limited-overs side and is currently in New Zealand with the ODI squad.

Similarly, Rashid has not seen been involved with the Test side in recent times either with his last appearance coming in December 2016 during England’s tour of India.

He was recently snubbed in favour of uncapped Mason Crane for the Ashes series Down Under and that could very well have played a role in his decision to forego first-class cricket for the 2018 season.

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New Zealand vs Australia: The three key battles as Trans-Tasman rivals clash in T20I tri-series finals

Ashish Peter 20/02/2018
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Williamson's and Warner's men will fight it out for the title.

New Zealand will take on Trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the finals of the T20I tri-series at Auckland on Wednesday in what will be a repeat of their round-robin fixture at the same venue a few days earlier.

Then, Australia had successfully completed a world record chase of 244 at Eden Park with its short boundaries.

Runs should flow once again and so we take a look at the key battles ahead of the finals.

TRENT BOULT V D’ARCY SHORT

Boult might not be the top-ranked Kiwi bowler but he remains the indisputable lynchpin of their bowling attack. The left-arm pacer has been expensive in his last three outings but has still managed to chip in with crucial wickets at the top and at the death.

His job on Wednesday will be to provide the crucial breakthroughs at the start and up against him will be David Warner and D’Arcy Short. While the reputation of the former precedes him, that of the latter is only growing with each passing innings in international cricket.

The Big Bash League (BBL) record-breaker has taken to international cricket like a duck to water and his match-winning 76 in the record chase will be fresh on the minds of the Blackcaps. His battle with Boult at the start should be an intriguing affair.

D'Arcy Short is fast developing a fearsome reputation.

D’Arcy Short is fast developing a fearsome reputation.

AARON FINCH VS ISH SODHI

The Australian batsman is having an extended purple patch that is showing no signs of stopping.

He was brilliant in the ODI series against England where he scored two tons and he has carried that form into the T20I tri-series. He played a big part in Australia’s record chase at the same venue and was on hand to score the winning runs.

Coming in to bat down the middle-order, Finch will up against New Zealand’s ace leg-spinner Ish Sodhi The Kiwi has been economical in the recent matches and his match-up against Finch will be interesting.

Finch loves to attack the spinners and there is no doubt he will go after Sodhi when the invitation is offered. Who comes out on top remains to be seen.

Finch has been having an extended purple patch.

Finch has been having an extended purple patch.

COLIN MUNRO V BILLY STANLAKE

Munro has been in destructive form in the T20 format since the end of the last year and has looked ominous in his last two outings where has registered two smashing half-centuries.

With Eden Park’s miniscule boundary distances, Munro could turn the match on its head with an explosive start. His partnership with Martin Guptill at the top has flourished of late and they will need to deal with Australia’s pace threat at the start of the innings.

That threat comes from Billy Stanlake who has been cranking up the speeds in this tri-series. The 23-year-old hurling in his rockets at Munro who will be looking to fight fire with fire is a mouth-watering prospect.

The Blackcaps opener is on fire at the moment.

The Blackcaps opener is on fire at the moment.

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