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Cuttack: India suffered that fate in the opening game and now they face a do-or-die situation against South Africa in the second T20I here at the Barabati Stadium on Monday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men appeared to have kick-started the marathon home series against the Proteas on a rousing note when, backed by a superlative century from opener Rohit Sharma, they plundered an impressive 199/5 at Dharamsala before ordinary bowling towards the latter stages let them down badly.

After quelling an early South African fire, the Indians looked like they were taking control of the match with 9.3 overs remaining and the visitors needing another 105 runs. However, a combination of sloppy bowling thereafter and scintillating batting from the dangerous Jean Paul Duminy saw the Indians lose by seven wickets. During his unbeaten 34-ball 68 blitzkrieg, the left-handed Duminy clobbered seven sixes with four coming off Axar Patel, including three in over — 16th — that pretty much changed the complexion of the match.

Given the nature of T20 encounters where the game moves at a rapid pace with very little scope for errors, the Indians will perforce have to get their bowling sorted out if they wish to stay alive in the series. The home team also had the dew factor going against them at Dharamsala, a factor stressed by Rohit Sharma on the eve of the second game here.

“We thought there will be some seam movement because there was some grass covering on the wicket,” he said. “But unfortunately because of the dew that was taken away. Our bowlers have played enough international cricket over the years and they know what line and length to bowl but the dew made the ball tough to grip. It’s no excuse to lose a game. I think overall, there is room for improvement and I’m sure guys have learnt from it and will come back strong. As a bowling unit we need to stick to our plans. We have to win the next game and we have to do a lot of things right,” he added, stressing that the bowlers need to up their game.

South Africa, who would be aiming to wrap up the series and begin their long journey on a victorious note, also face a similar problem with the new-look T20 bowling line-up struggling to find the direction in the two games — including the practice game against India ‘A’ — so far.

Batting wise, both teams are packed with plenty of match-winners. While India boast of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the South Africans can scream about de Villiers, Amla, Duminy and David Miller. On their day, any one of them can rip apart the best of bowlers.

“At the moment, they have a strong batting side and we too have a good batting side,” opined South Africa’s Farhaan Behardien. “We have good bowlers, and they have good spinners. I think it is all evenly matched and depends on the pitches that the stadiums provide.

Hopefully, the competition will be more even. Over the last couple of years, the batsmen have dominated the game in T20s and ODIs with massive scores of 400 etc. Let’s hope that there will be something for both batsmen and bowlers in the coming games.”


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