After being given three days off following the loss in the second Test at Centurion to South Africa, India’s players were back at the nets on Sunday at the Wanderers in preparation for the final Test.
The Indians were also seen practising their slip-fielding which has been a major letdown in the series so far.
The No.1 ranked Test side in the world will be looking to end the series on a high as they seek to prevent a first-ever whitewash on South African shores.
However, things will not be easy for the batsmen once again if the words of the Wanderers’ curator Bethuel Buthelezi are anything to go by.
“I have left sufficient green grass on it and I will not be shaving it off again before the match. We will be watering it again before the game. Unlike Centurion, there is no chance of sun burning out this grass because the ground is well watered,” the chief-curator told PTI.
“I have listened to the demands of the South African team and prepared this pitch accordingly. There won’t be any spin available here, but there will be ample pace and bounce for which this ground is well known,” he added.
Buthelezi fully expects a result in the third Test unlike the last time the two sides played at the venue in 2013.
“There will also be some lateral movement on account of the grass. Unlike 2013 , this is a more result-oriented pitch,” he stated.
India’s batsman have endured a torrid time on the greenish surfaces so far on the tour with Virat Kohli’s 153 in the second Test and Hardik Pandya’s 93 in the first being the only innings of note.
The third and final Test between the two sides gets underway on Wednesday before the action shifts over to the limited-overs matches.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s men have not had the best of starts to 2018 after a sensational run last year where they stunned India to lift the ICC Champions Trophy in England.
Kane Williamson’s men on the other hand have kicked off 2018 in perfect fashion and will fancy themselves once again in the shortest format of the game against the subcontinent visitors.
We look at the key talking points ahead of the first T20I.
PAKISTAN LOOK TO END THEIR KIWI JINX
Since beating New Zealand in the first T20I at Eden Park in 2016, Pakistan have endured a dismal run against the opposition. They have lost 12 matches across all formats since that win culminating in the 5-0 thrashing in the ODI series.
The momentum lies with the Black Caps currently but as with any Pakistan side over the years, you never know what you will get on the day as they range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Breaking this stronghold that the Kiwis have on them will be the first thing on their mind when they line up at the Westpac stadium on Monday.
BLACKCAPS FRESHEN UP SQUAD FOR T20Is
While they were unstoppable in the ODIs, the Kiwis have rested some of their big guns in the form of Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson for the first T20 as they look to keep things fresh.
Into the side come the likes the Ish Sodhi, Ben Wheeler, Glenn Phillips and Tom Bruce, all in great form when it comes to the 20-over game. They have been performing well in the domestic Super Smash T20 competition and will be looking to continue that form in the series against Pakistan.
Sodhi in particular has been a revelation in the limited-overs format and his bowling will be key for New Zealand in the three-match series.
IN-FORM AHMED SHEHZAD RETURNS FOR PAKISTAN
Pakistan suffered a big blow before the series has even started after stalwart Shoaib Malik was ruled out for all three matches. Malik showed signs of delayed concussion after getting hit by a Colin Munro throw in the fourth ODI and has returned home to recuperate.
However, the visitors will be buoyed to have Ahmed Shehzad back for the T20Is. The right-handed batsman has been going through a purple patch in the format with two fifties in his last six appearances.
He will open the innings with Fakhar Zaman and together, the two will be hoping to get Pakistan off to a great start.
TUSSLE FOR THE NO.1 SPOT
The series will see a battle between the No.1 and No.2 ranked T20I sides in the world and as such, plenty will be at stake.
Just two points separate second-place Pakistan from the top-ranked Kiwis and they will be hoping to secure a series victory to leapfrog them in the standings.
Pakistan have won their last five bilateral T20I series while the hosts are fresh from their 2-0 victory over the World Twenty20 champions West Indies.
IPL BONANZA ON THE CARDS FOR KIWIS
In less than a week, the hugely-anticipated Indian Premier League (IPL) auction is set to get underway. While Pakistan’s players will not be in contention, it will be very keenly followed by those in the New Zealand side.
The likes of Kane Williamson, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Ish Sodhi, Martin Guptill, Mitchell Santner and Glenn Phillips will be all hoping to catch the eye of the franchises with their performances having thrown their hat into the auction ring.
The Kiwis have always been a huge draw at the IPL and with some really exciting T20 talent at their disposal, they sure will be looking to make a big splash this time around too.
Jos Buttler‘s superb unbeaten ton was the game-changer for the visitors at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) as they beat the hosts by 16 runs.
Steve Smith won the toss and elected to bowl first and he would have anticipated it was the right decision with England on the ropes in the first 40 overs.
However, Buttler combined with Chris Woakes for some late fireworks to take the visitors to 302-6 in their 50 overs. The hosts could only manage 286-6 as England’s bowlers, especially Mark Wood, kept a tight leash on the batsmen.
Here, we look rate both sets of players from the third ODI.
Aaron Finch 7: The Australian opener looked to be on course for his third ODI hundred on the bounce after racing away to his half-century. He fell for 62 ultimately but his innings did give the hosts a foothold in the big chase.
David Warner 4: Finch’s opening partner has failed to really get going so far in the series and he struggled again on Sunday after pushing a Woakes delivery straight to extra cover to be dismissed for just eight runs.
Cameron White 5: The former T20I skipper’s comeback to the side after all these years hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams. Promoted to number three in the batting on Sunday, White got off to a decent start but failed to convert as he knicked a Mark Wood delivery to the wicket-keeper. He dropped a sitter in the field as well.
Steve Smith 7: The Aussie skipper was looking his usual solid self and was set up nicely in the chase as he kept the required-rate under check. However, just when it looked like Smith would take Australia all the way home, Buttler snapped up a terrific catch behind the stumps to send the Ashes hero on his way.
Mitchell Marsh 8: The all-rounder shone with both bat and ball but it wasn’t enough to get the hosts over the line. Picked up the one wicket in his three overs before taking on the mantle of driving Australia’s chase. He registered his 11th ODI fifty in an innings which kept victory within sights for the hosts but holed out to long-on just before the start of the death overs.
Marcus Stoinis 8: The Australian all-rounder gave it his all and there was simply nothing more he could have done on the day. He bowled economically picking up the one wicket before providing the fireworks with the bat in hand as he scored 56 off just 43 deliveries. He was simply left with too much to do when he came out to bat.
Tim Paine 7: The Australian wicket-keeper returned from illness and put in an assured performance with the bat but just like Stoinis, it was too late for him to make a winning impact. He struggled to find the boundaries as the asking-rate kept piling up and Paine remained unbeaten on 31.
Mitchell Starc 5: The Aussie pace spearhead was not at his very best on the day as he went on a wicketless toil. Went for around run-a-ball and failed to create the impact he would have liked.
Pat Cummins 5: After being rested at Brisbane, the pacer was a little wayward to begin with but soon found his rhythm to dismiss Jason Roy. He was taken for some punishment towards the death overs though.
Adam Zampa 6: The leggie was back in the playing XI as Smith elected to go with a specialist spinner and was decent without being outstanding. He did bowl the perfect googly to castle Bairstow’s stumps after setting him beautifully.
Josh Hazlewood 7: The Aussie pacer returned to the side after recovering from the flu and bowled well to pick up the wickets of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. He was difficult to get away on the Sydney pitch with his nagging line and lengths.
Jason Roy 5: Not the best of days for the England opener whose record-breaking ton in the first ODI is still fresh in the mind. He got off to a good start but drove straight to extra cover just when he seemed to be coming into his groove.
Jonny Bairstow 7: England did not get off to the best opening with the bat but Bairstow soldiered ahead on a two-paced pitch. He looked set to be in for the long haul before being deceived with the perfect googly by Zampa.
Alex Hales 3: A poor day in the office for the big-hitter who failed to find his timing on a difficult pitch. He eventually mistimed a drive to mid-on to end an uncomfortable eight-ball stay at the crease.
Joe Root 6: The Englishman looked to be setting himself up for another big score on his 100th ODI appearance for his country. However, the two-paced nature of the surface did him in as he chopped on to Hazlewood for 27.
Eoin Morgan 7: The skipper dug England out of a hole along with Buttler and was approaching his half-century when he trickled an edge to Paine while trying to run the ball down to third-man. It was an important innings in context of the circumstances.
Jos Buttler 9: The England wicket-keeper batsman did not set a foot wrong all day with a sublime unbeaten ton off just 83 deliveries as he tore into Australia’s bowlers in the final 10 overs. He was excellent behind the stumps too snapping up a great low tumbling catch to send back Smith who was looking extremely good.
Moeen Ali 5: A disappointing day for the all-rounder who once again failed with the bat as his horror run Down Under continued. Ali scored just six runs despite being given a lifeline and then bowled an ordinary spell without any wickets to show for to complete an unremarkable match for him.
Chris Woakes 9: For the second time running, the England all-rounder was superb in all departments. His quick-fire unbeaten fifty along with Buttler’s ton turned the game on its head. He then returned with the ball to pick up two crucial wickets to cap off another fine performance.
Adil Rashid 8: The leg-spinner bowled with good intelligence and variation in a tight spell which kept Australia on the leash. He dismissed Finch with a slider before accounting for Marsh in what was a very crucial period of play. He was much more effective than Zampa was on the same surface showing how handy he is to the limited-overs setup.
Liam Plunkett 5: The tall pacer’s match was cut short just two deliveries into his second over as he went down clutching his hamstring. He did not return to bowl after that though England did well to manage with a bowler short.
Mark Wood 8: The fast-bowler was the pick of England’s bowlers with some extremely tight bowling which never allowed the batsmen to get away. He chipped in with the crucial wickets of Smith and White too to break Australia’s back and lead the visitors to victory.