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South Africa look for answers with series on the line

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Agarkar: Pressure on Pant unnecessary (8:47)

Agarkar believes all the criticism is a bit too harsh on the youngster (8:47)

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India don't like to reveal their playing XI before a match, but if there is a time to experiment, it is now. With 25 games in hand before the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, they do not want to be caught red-faced without a settled batting order below No. 3.

Rishabh Pant is the current occupant of the No. 4 spot and his returns have been ordinary - he has seven single-digit scores in his last ten T20I innings. Perhaps there is a case to consider Shreyas Iyer there and Pant a slot lower to lessen the pressure on him. That means, for the moment, with the 'fearless v careless' debate gathering momentum with every passing outing, Pant can bat when the team is looking for quick runs without the fear of getting out.

On the bowling front, the short boundaries at M Chinnaswamy Stadium could be a temptation for India to pick an extra seamer, and Khaleel Ahmed could be a candidate if they are thinking on those lines. But since 2018, spinners have conceded fewer runs - 8.1 runs per over to 9.8 of pacers - at this venue in T20s. With Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar adding batting depth, why fix something that isn't broken?

ALSO READ: Washington Sundar re-emerges as India's specialist new-ball spinner

South Africa, meanwhile, are still grappling with life after AB de Villiers. The 2019 World Cup was simply a teaser, and now with Faf du Plessis also not on tour, a young middle order needs to be backed and persisted with even if it comes at the cost of losing a few games.

Rassie van der Dussen, who was on the A tour, can score quickly without being explosive, Temba Bavuma too is largely a technically correct batsman who doesn't slog. Their challenge is to see how they can best utilise the available resources.

In the spotlight

Rarely in recent times has a player polarised opinion in India as much as Rishabh Pant has. The talent is undoubted, but his shot selection, which has at times tended towards the injudicious, has invited criticism, even from within the team. Returning to the city of his international debut and playing on a surface that any batsman looking for runs dreams of should encourage him.

Having let go of the disappointment of the World Cup snub, Reeza Hendricks has a chance to prove he can be South Africa's go-to opener following Hashim Amla's retirement. Having been in India with the South Africa A side for close to a month, he has had sufficient acclimatisation time. In Mohali, he was out to an ugly hoick to mid-on. Sunday is an opportunity to get a score and help his side level the series.

Team news

Krunal Pandya bowled just one over in Mohali and could make way for Rahul Chahar if India want to give the youngster a chance.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya/Rahul Chahar, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Washington Sundar, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Navdeep Saini

South Africa too didn't give away much about their XI on the eve of the match, but they could possibly look at bringing in Junior Dala, who, like Hendricks, has been in India for a while.

South Africa (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (capt & wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 David Miller, 6 Andile Phehlukwayo, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Bjorn Fortuin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Junior Dala, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Pitch and conditions

There's generally good bounce and carry in Bengaluru, which makes it easier for batsmen to hit through the line because the ball doesn't move around much. The average first-innings score here in the IPL this year was 180. Smaller boundaries mean spinners will face quite a challenge. Should they need tips, Yuzvendra Chahal, not part of the squad, would be the man to call as he has made a career out of bowling here for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Stats and trivia

  • Dala has dismissed Rohit Sharma thrice in three T20Is.

  • Legspinners have fared best among all slow bowlers here in all T20s since 2018, picking up 34 wickets in 15 matches, with an economy rate of 7.98

  • Quinton de Kock likes batting here, having made 384 runs in ten T20 innings, with two fifties and a hundred for Delhi Capitals against Royal Challengers

Quotes

"Even if four-five innings go here and there, I take it very normally because I know my process and I'm very strong. For you guys, it's not normal."
Shikhar Dhawan laughs off talks about his patchy form

"It is going to be a completely different game to Mohali - where it was a big field and a slower pitch. Over here, there is a higher boundary percentage and it's a whole new challenge for us."
South Africa vice-captain Rassie van der Dussen on the adjustments his side needs to make