India will be going up against South Africa in the third and final ODI on Thursday, at the Boland Park in Paarl. After facing a defeat in the first ODI, the Proteas convincingly won the second ODI and have managed to keep the series alive. Tony de Zorzi’s unbeaten 122-ball 119 guided his side home. However, the KL Rahul-led side will aim for a better outing in the third match, in order to claim the three-match series. Young opener Sai Sudarshan, who made his international in the first ODI, is in sublime form as he smashed half-centuries in both the matches.

With a similar storyline of faltering opening combination running through the first two matches, India’s hopes of registering their second ODI series triumph in South Africa will revolve around a sturdy start from the openers

India’s lone ODI series win in the Rainbow nation came in 2018, and for an encore they require a robust beginning from Ruturaj Gaikwad and B Sai Sudharsan as a pair.

Sai Sudharsan has been impressive in his two outings in the series so far, notching up 55 and 62. But Gaikwad could not support him from the other end. The right-hander fell for five and four as India’s first-wicket alliance ended at 23 and four at Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

In contrast, South African openers Tony de Zorzi, who cracked his maiden century, and Reeza Hendricks milked 130 runs to kill the chase.

Similarly, Tilak Varma, who showed some early promise in his career, seemed to have tapered off a bit in the last couple of months.

Meanwhile, Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan did the perfect demolition job in the first match, and the former continued to be thrifty in the second match as well. So, it is imperative for Mukesh to find his rhythm with the new ball and pick up a wicket or two upfront to keep South Africa on the backfoot.

The team management might also think of giving a match to veteran leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, whose tour to SA will end on the morrow.

India’s Predicted XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sai Sudharsan, Tilak Varma, KL Rahul (C), Sanju Samson, Rinku Singh, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan/Yuzvendra Chahal, Mukesh Kumar

(With PTI Inputs)

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