NEWLANDS - The absence of AB de Villiers for the first three games had hurt South Africa anyway, and with Faf du Plessis (right index finger fracture) and Quinton de Kock (wrist injury) going out of action, the batting is quite short of experience.

With du Plessis scoring a 112-ball 120, South Africa put up 269/8 in the first ODI. It was still not enough to prevent a six-wicket win for India, with 27 balls left in the chase, but without him around in the second game, South Africa were bowled out for 118 at Centurion after being asked to take first strike.

Interestingly, Khaya Zondo, du Plessis’s replacement in the XI, was the joint top-scorer for South Africa with 25, the same score as JP Duminy, in a poor batting effort overall where four batsmen – Hashim Amla and de Kock the others – got into their 20s but failed to push on. A big part of the reason for that was the success of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the two Indian wrist-spinners who have picked up seven and six wickets respectively so far. Not always have they got wickets with great balls, but they have been at the South African batsmen all the time.

From India’s point of view, it’s not just the bowlers who have starred, though in both matches they have set up the wins by restricting South Africa to moderate (in Durban) and poor (in Centurion) totals. The batsmen have been supreme too. In the first game, Virat Kohli scored 112 in 119 balls and partnered Ajinkya Rahane, who scored 79 in 86 balls, for 189 runs for the third wicket to put the game beyond the home side, while in the second, Shikhar Dhawan, with 51 not out off 56 balls, and Kohli, 46 not out in 50 balls, sealed the deal. Those are big runs anyway, and appear even more so because after du Plessis’s 120, Chris Morris’s 37 in the first game remains the best by a South African.

The reins are in Aiden Markram’s hands, and while the decision to promote him has been taken with an eye on the future, the young man needs to find a way to get his team’s batting level up. With de Kock out, Markram might have to move to the top of the batting order and partner Amla, and then depend on the experience of Duminy, David Miller and Morris, with Heinrich Klaasen possibly in as de Kock’s replacement. It’s more a question of getting the big runs and winning the key moments in the game, which hasn’t happened for them twice in a row.

India must be happy with where they are after losing the three-Test series 2-1, and will want to get to 3-0 and ensure they don’t lose the series. For South Africa, time is running out, and they will have to figure out a way to counter Chahal and Yadav to harbour hopes of staying alive.

The Indian captain was the most successful batsman across sides in the Test series, scoring 286 runs at an average of 47.66, and has taken that form into the ODIs, with a century and an unbeaten half-century so far. The bowlers have done their job brilliantly in the first two ODIs, and Kohli, the No. 1-ranked batsman in the ICC ODI player rankings, will back himself to continue leading the charge with the bat to try and put matters beyond South Africa’s reach at Newlands.

With de Villiers (No. 2), de Kock (No. 6) and du Plessis (No. 9) out at the moment, Amla is the top South African batsman in the ICC ODI player rankings in tenth spot. He has the experience, the big runs – 26 centuries and 34 half-centuries, and a career average of 50.82 – and the class to make a difference, and must come to the party in the third ODI. If he can give South Africa a stable start and set up a solid base, the middle-order can be counted on to provide the flair for the home team to stay alive in the series.

Pace bowlers had a party for the most part in the opening Test of the series, played at Newlands, but the pitch should be more batsman-friendly on Wednesday keeping in mind the change in format. The weather forecast is great: Cool and mostly sunny. And the head-to-head record at the venue makes it quite fascinating too, with South Africa having won the first two exchanges at the venue – in 1992 and 2006 – but India winning the third and final encounter in 2011.


SOUTH AFRICA: Aiden Markram (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.

INDIA: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma (vice-capt), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur.