India are preparing for a must-win third T20 showdown against South Africa in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday, with the hosts already 2-0 down in the five-match series.
India are facing the very real prospect of losing the series on home soil with two matches still to play and need to hit back in the third game following successive disappointing defeats.
What: India vs South Africa, 3rd Twenty20 Match
Where: Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium, Visakhapatnam, India
When: 14:30, Tuesday 14th June 2022
Odds: India 8/11, South Africa 11/10
Without big names such as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul - who was ruled out of the series due to a groin injury - the pressure is on Rishabh Pant to now deliver for India as his first foray into international captaincy has got off to a fairly dismal start.
After losing the toss in the first two games in Delhi and Cuttack, India were put into bat by South Africa and, on both occasions, the tourists were successful in their run chases, winning by seven wickets in a pulsating high-scoring opener, before following up with an impressive four-wicket victory on Sunday.
India would have understandably thought their total of 221-4 off 20 overs in the first game - their highest T20I total at Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium - would have been enough to get them off to the perfect start but South Africa had other ideas.
The visitors rattled off 212-3 with five balls to spare in what was their highest ever successful chase in T20I cricket.
The Proteas had unbeaten half-centuries from David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen to thank for putting them 1-0 up, as Ishan Kishan's top-score of 76 off 48 balls was rendered meaningless for India, who were denied a record 13th successive T20I victory in the process.
The second clash saw India struggle much more with their batting, as only Kishan and Shreyas Iyer early on, who made 34 and 40 respectively, managed significant scores before Dinesh Karthik - playing his first T20I since February 2019 - helped push the total close to 150 with a knock of 30 not out.
Karthik's admirable late effort, which included two successive sixes off Dwaine Pretorius in the final over, saw India finish up with 148-6 but it wasn't enough again as the Proteas, and Heinrich Klaasen in particular, responded superbly in their innings.
Klaasen, who came into the side as an injury replacement for Quinton de Kock, struck a timely career-best 81, while the addition of skipper Temba Bavuma's 35 and 20 not out from David Miller was enough to take them to a winning target of 149-6 off 18.2 overs.
Despite suffering back-to-back losses, India are favourites at 8/11 to win Tuesday's third T20I, with South Africa available at 11/10 to make it 3-0 and seal a series victory in the process.
Batter Iyer insists India will not veer from their gameplan of being aggressive with the bat in the remaining three matches and they will look to attack the tourists when possible.
He is confident it will eventually pay off as they continue to try and build positively towards the World Cup in Australia in the autumn - India are 3/1 to win the T20 World Cup, hosts Australia are 10/3 and England are 7/2.
He said: "We have made this plan that we will keep going no matter what happens. Even if we keep losing wickets, it's our game plan and in the future too, we will go in with the same mindset. We will back ourselves and back our instincts.
"Our main aim is obviously the World Cup, so we have to see to it that we plan towards it. So we have that sort of mindset where we are completely free and not thinking about anything else. These are the actual games where we can practice what we were lacking in the past."
If India are to stay alive in the series they will need more from opener Ruturaj Gaikwad after he was dismissed for just one last time out and 23 in the first game. Despite that form, he is likely to keep his place in the side.
In the bowling department, Deepak Hooda is in contention to play as an off-spin option, but it appears Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan have all done enough so far to get another chance.
Yuzvendra Chahal, who has took just one wicket in the first two games, is reportedly in danger of losing his place, with Ravi Bishnoi pushing for a recall.
Aiden Markram remains out for South Africa due to illness, but De Kock could return if he recovers in time from the wrist injury which kept him out of the second game.
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