India Harbhajan Singh Umesh Yadav South Africa
The India bowling needs to come to the party again in the 3rd ODI against South AfricaReuters

MS Dhoni came to the party, the bowlers showed they can handle the pressure and India won their first game of the Freedom series against South Arica. Despite plenty of chinks remaining, overall, it was a pretty satisfactory outing for India in Indore.

Now it is time for the 3rd ODI in Rajkot to take centre-stage – and hopefully it is the cricket that will do that, and not off-field forces – with India finally going into a match in this series with that buoyant "alright, we have some confidence now" feeling.

The best part of the second one-day international victory was the form of Dhoni, who played the kind of innings he has played innumerable times in the past to give his bowlers some kind of score to defend.

And defend the score they did – with a little help from the ridiculously-good crowd at the Holkar Cricket Stadium -- even if the 247 was well below par on a nice batting pitch. That bowling performance will give Dhoni and the rest of the team as much encouragement as anything else. Too many times, the bowling has let the team down, conceding too many runs in the opening and final overs, as was the case in the first ODI between the two teams.

However, if the bowling can be more consistent – like they were in the World Cup, right until the semifinal – India will be a far more potent unit, and a team that South Africa will struggle to beat.

It is a big if, though.

That doesn't mean the India batting is all hunky dory, either. The collapse in the 2nd ODI was quite akin to the ones India suffered a couple of times in that the-quicker-forgotten-the-better Bangladesh series. There is a pattern there; every time India lose their top order early, apart from Dhoni, the other struggle.

So, one: the top order needs to fire and two: the middle order needs to back the top order up and give confidence to the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli that even if they lose their wickets, the batting to come will back them up.

Because with that comes the freedom to play your shots more freely, and while Rohit has excelled against South Africa so far, the same cannot be said of Dhawan, who has been poor, and then some.

In no innings has Dhawan invoked that "oh we are going to see a hundred from him here" feeling. Even when he has got starts, that his-wicket-could-go-anytime feeling has remained and Dhawan needs to get out of the rut he finds himself in, otherwise it is up to Dhoni to drop the left-hander, push Rahane to the top and restore Kohli, another batsman in need of a big score, back to No.3 – the position he should be playing all the time.

The second ODI victory showed that South Africa's bating can be rattled when pressure is applied. Say what you want, but this batting relies pretty heavily on De Villiers, and anytime the skipper goes early that pressure gets cranked up, with the lack of lower order resources also hurting them.

Keeping the pressure on South Africa – be that by batting really well and posting a big score or by bowling like India did in Indore – is the key to success.

3rd ODI schedule: India vs South Africa.

Date: Sunday, 18 October.

Time: 1.30 pm IST (10 am SAST, 9 am BST, 4 am ET).

Venue: Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot.

TV listings: India: Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3 (along with the HD channels) and DD National. South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: SuperSport. UK: Sky Sports 2. USA: Willow TV. Middle East and North Africa: OSN Cricket.

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