As South Africa’s T20 series against India heads to a conclusion, the Proteas are going to have to come up with an adroit response to how the conditions have become more and more typical of the subcontinent.
South Africa raced into a 2-0 lead in the five-match series with victories on a batting paradise in Delhi and on a pitch that assisted the seamers in Cuttack. But they were hammered by 48 runs by India in the third T20 earlier this week in Visakhapatnam, where the pitch was helpful to the spinners and much slower than the surfaces used in the first two games.
Fast bowler Anrich Nortje was one of the Proteas who struggled to adjust, bowling two overs for 23 runs, and he admitted on Thursday that the tourists were desperate to wrap up the series win in Friday’s fourth T20 in Rajkot. Nortje does at least have the excuse that he is still making his way back from a long-term hip/back injury that kept him out of just about the whole of last summer.
“The nets here have been a bit two-paced and up-and-down, they’re on the slower side. Our understanding is that it’s going to be a bit low and slow on Friday,” Nortje said.
“The game will be like a final for us. In the last match we didn’t get anywhere close towards what we are capable of playing, so for us this is a second chance and we need to seal the series as soon as possible.
“I’m still working on my bowling, I’m trying to find one or two things and my body is not 100% yet. It’s about slowly building up and I’m still trying to get back to where I was before last year’s T20 World Cup.
“It’s been a long time, but it’s about small, minor adjustments. Generally I try to keep things simple and stick to the basics, so there are small margins for me. But I think I’m on the right track.”
India have been able to clamber back into contention in the series thanks to their spinners coming more into play, but they have also been helped by Quinton de Kock’s injury and Aiden Markram’s illness, which have robbed South Africa of much-needed explosiveness up front, especially on pitches that get lower and slower.
The good news is that De Kock’s injured wrist has apparently made a “marked improvement” and he is practising again. Both he and Markram were in superb form in the recent IPL, but with the latter heading home after his Covid quarantine, the Proteas are eager for their regular wicketkeeper to return to the top of the order.
Having a left-hander in the top three would also make life more difficult for the Indian bowlers, who began to come into their own in the third T20.
Play starts at 3.30pm on Friday.