Cuttack: After suffering a heavy defeat in the tour opener, India will aim to bounce back in a must-win second Twenty20 International of the three-match series against South Africa at the Barabati Stadium here on Monday.
The hosts suffered a morale-crushing, seven-wicket defeat in the opening match of the tour in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, when the Proteas capitalised on poor performance by the Indian bowlers to overhaul the challenging 200-run target.
The Indian batsmen had done well in the first T20 as a century from Rohit Sharma and a quickfire knock from Virat Kohli enabled the hosts to post the big total in 20 overs. But despite employing three pacers, the Indian bowling attack was unable to come up with the goods on a grassy wicket which offered plenty of bounce and movement.
Of the five bowlers employed by Indian captain Mahendra singh Dhoni, four had economy rates of 10 runs an over or more. Leg-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who claimed the prized wicket of AB de Villiers, was the most economical with a rate of 6.5.
The South Africans rode on excellent batting from JP Duminy (68) and AB de Villiers (51) to cruise to victory with two balls to spare. Duminy had virtually sealed the fate of the match when he smashed three successive sixes off Axar Patel in the 16th over. His unbroken partnership of 105 with Farhaan Behardien (32) helped carry the Proteas through.
The conditions are expected to be more suitable for the hosts here and the wicket is expected to be a slow turner with low bounce. With heavy rains lashing the region over the last few days, there would be concern over the ground conditions ahead of the match. More rains have been predicted over the next 48 hours.
Dhoni will do well to bring in in-form leg-spinner Amit Mishra who has done well during the recent Sri Lanka tour. The duo of Mishra and Patel bowling in tandem could give India the edge in the low and slow conditions here.
The Indians will have to pull up their socks after the flop show in Dharamsala.
The visitors will be in buouyant mood and will be eager to seal the series. But the conditions at the Barabati Stadium will be different from the ones they are used to back home in South Africa.
Even the wickets they have played on so far in this tour — the T20 warm-up in New Delhi and the first T20I — have offered plenty of bounce and movement. A lot will depend on how the South African bowling attack rises to the challenge.
The South African bowlers have not been too impressive so far during this tour and will be under pressure to prove themselves. It remains to be seen how they adjust to the unfamiliar conditions here.