India would be looking to end what has been a largely successful tour of South Africa on a high when they face the hosts in the third and final Twenty20 international at Newlands, Cape Town on Saturday. While India might have tasted defeat in the Test series, they made history by routing the hosts 5-1 to claim their maiden bilateral ODI series win on South African soil. India, who easily won the opening T20I in Johannesburg, were outplayed by South Africa in the second. With the series tied 1-1, it's all to play for in Cape Town.
While India have never played any T20Is at Newlands, they will take heart from the fact that South Africa have a not so impressive record there. The Proteas have played eight T20Is and lost five at Newlands with two of those wins coming in the World Twenty20 2007, meaning that they have won just one bilateral game in Cape Town (against England in 2016).
Victory in the previous game will be a reason for buoyancy in the Proteas' dressing room. Stand-in skipper JP Duminy was adamant that they had well-set plans for Indian batsmen and bowlers since the start of this series but just needed proper execution as was showcased at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
Duminy had named an unchanged eleven in the previous game, and it remains to be seen if they will tinker with a winning combination for the series-decider.
Jon-Jon Smuts hasn't come good yet despite his big-hitting prowess, while David Miller's poor form has spilled over from the ODIs. He was persisted with throughout that series, so there is no reason to doubt that he will not be in the team come Saturday.
Jasprit Bumrah's abdominal strain had forced India to make a change, but they will consider a couple spots for this finale. Bumrah's fitness still remains a question mark.
Will the team management risk playing him given the shortened time-frame of this match? The fact that there is a two-week gap before the tri-series begins in Sri Lanka might coerce them into this gamble.
The bowling combination is the other concern. India have shown a propensity to field a left-arm pacer in this format, but Jaydev Unadkat has proven expensive so far.
He has picked up two wickets for 75 runs at an economy of 9.78. Yuzvendra Chahal has also been hammered (one wicket for 103 runs in 8 overs at economy 12.87).
Given the scenario, Virat Kohli might just be inspired to change the look and shape of his bowling attack.
If Bumrah does play, Unadkat is likely to make way for him. Shardul Thakuar used clever change of pace at Centurion and picked 1/31 in his four-over spell.
The Newlands pitch had played slow during the ODI series, and citing the example of SuperSport Park, there is every reason to expect another wicket on the slower side, if not dual-paced altogether.
Arguably, Chahal bowls a more consistent line than Kuldeep Yadav and this explains latter's omission from the first two games.
However, with Chahal's confidence a bit down, Kuldeep could find himself in the reckoning for this all-important game. Further, given South Africa's frailty against change of pace, India might even be tempted to consider Axar Patel, thus increasing the onus on Hardik Pandya as the third-choice pacer.
India's tour had gained momentum with victory in the Wanderers Test and then they carried it through the ODI series, romping home with a 5-1 margin.
The team management usually clubs all formats together and is celebrating ascendancy over South Africa since the last week of January. As such, they will be keen to fly out with an additional trophy to show for this run of form.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: JP Duminy (captain), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Reeza Hendricks, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), David Miller, Chris Morris, Dane Paterson, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Jon-Jon Smuts.
(With PTI Inputs)