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21-Jan-2011 04:49:00 GMT
South Africa v India, 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth

Dhoni Injured But Likely to Play Crucial Match

Port Elizabeth: Under MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten, the Indian cricket team has achieved many firsts, in all forms of the game. It is now on the cusp of another - first-ever ODI series win in South Africa.

While Dhoni underplayed the history angle for Friday's clash, it will be a sterling achievement should India pull it off. That will also be the icing on the tour cake after a stirring show in the Test series.

But for all that to happen, the weather has to be at its best behaviour, which it has not been since Thursday morning. A light drizzle was on for the better part of the day and more rain is predicted for Friday.

Hopefully, the forecast will remain just that, like in Johannesburg. The met men had predicted a 72 per cent chance of rain on the day the third ODI was to be played. Not a single drop came our way.

For a change, India hold the edge going into this big test of skill and temperament, having clinched two successive nail-biting finishes.

These wins must have given their self-belief further boost while creating doubts in the minds of the South Africans. As the series has shown, there is not much to choose between the two sides, especially in conditions here. Thus, nerves become crucial. India have shown they can hold theirs. The Proteas have to play ball.

The worrying bit for India is that captain Dhoni took a blow on his left knee while batting in the nets on match eve and was seen icing it for quite some time. Manager Ranjib Biswal allayed fears. "It's nothing serious. He'll play the match," he said. But one would like to keep fingers crossed as Dhoni's absence could further weaken India's batting.

A look at the past tells us Port Elizabeth has never seen India in full bloom. The Men in Blue have lost all the four ODIs they have played at St. George's Park by big margins, once even to Kenya. But Dhoni's boys are adept at rewriting the past. So, stats and figures can wait. One thing which is common between the two teams is that both are looking to correct batting maladies. It has been a low-scoring series barring the first innings of the first game. While conditions have not been the best for strokeplay at all venues, the two captains expect better dividends from their line-ups. To achieve that end, India will have a new opener in Parthiv Patel who joined the squad on Tuesday as Sachin Tendulkar's replacement.

Port Elizabeth is known to be quite like Indian pitches - low and slow where scoring is not easy. India have just the right attack for this kind of wicket with part-time spinners complementing Harbhajan Singh, the standout Indian bowler in the series.

One change in the bowling department could be Ashish Nehra. He has not found his range here at all. Whether India chose to continue with Nehra or replace him with either a paceman, Sreesanth, or a specialist spinner, Piyush Chawla/ Ashwin, will be interesting to see.

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