The third T20 international between India and South Africa will be held at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. While the series is well and truly over, with South Africa winning the first two matches, there is that pride thingy for India to salvage, and try and salvage they will in front of a partisan Eden crowd.
Having surrendered meekly in the second T20, a match that will, unfortunately, be remembered for all the wrong reasons, India will want to build some kind of momentum going into the five-match ODI series, which begins on Sunday.
Below are the predictions of what might happen in the match if India bat first or field first (Note: last time I did this, it was not even remotely on the mark; so please take it with a pinch of salt. I will try and be as India-supportive as possible, though, don't worry).
If India field first: Hasn't happened yet in this series, with MS Dhoni losing both tosses. Chasing in Indian conditions, with the nice batting pitch (OK, not counting the one in Cuttack) and dew, is always easier than defending a total. If Faf Du Plessis does call wrong, Dhoni will, no doubt, want to bowl first, and here's what might happen.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma open the bowling and pick up a couple of wickets -- say, Hashim Amla and Du Plessis (If Quinton de Kock is not given an opportunity to play, that is) with R Ashwin, held back in this match, unlike the last one, coming in and putting the skids on the Proteas batsman along with Harbhajan Singh. A late flurry is inevitable in T20 cricket – led by De Villiers, who was quietly biding his time -- and that eventually takes South Africa to 160-odd.
The reply is strong from India, with Ajinkya Rahane, in for Shikhar Dhawan, and Rohit Sharma giving their team a good start for once. Virat Kohli then comes in and plays a nice quickfire innings, leaving Dhoni and Suresh Raina to do the rest, which they do comfortably enough.
If India bat first: So far, this one hasn't gone too well, with South Africa chasing down a target of 200 in the first T20I, while that 93 was never going to trouble them. The key is to post a big score and then bring in the pressure with early wickets. Rahane and Rohit, batting first as well, make a good start, with Kohli also chipping in, and then Raina playing one of those typical Raina T20 innings. That takes India to 170-180, leaving South Africa with plenty to do.
The openers fail for South Africa, with Du Plessis and JP Duminy putting on a crucial partnership (assuming both of them play that is) which keeps the away team in the game. However, a couple of quickfire wickets, from one of the Indian spinners, sways the momentum back in India's favour, and the home team see the rest of the overs through for victory.