The India and South Africa clash in Champions Trophy is being billed as a virtual quarterfinal as it is a must win encounter for both teams. Both the heavyweights are clashing for a place in the semifinal and the match is scheduled to be played at Sunday afternoon at the Kennington Oval, London.
Call it irony, if India lose the game, it will be defending champions making an exit even before the semi-final. On the other hand, if the Proteas lose, then the current No.1 ranked ODI side would be ousted before the last four stage.
The South Africans will be overjoyed as their iconic skipper and Mr 360, AB de Villiers has declared himself fit for the game. The familiarity between both sides is fairly good as well with plenty of South African players taking part in the IPL, and with both teams having faced each other quite a few times recently.
Coming into this game, there would be pretty much no surprises for either team. India and South Africa have clashed three times earlier in Champions Trophy where India have emerged as winners. In 2000, India defeated Proteas by 95 runs, in 2002 by 10 runs and in 2013 by 13 runs.
Their confidence shaken after Sri Lanka effortlessly out-batted them in a high-scoring encounter, the Indian team and Kohli, in particular, will be keen to ensure that South Africa are continued to be known as “chokers”.
The other big factor is Jadeja’s electric fielding inside the circle and the powerful arm from anywhere at the boundary line. Jadeja can save at least 15 runs per match which makes him an useful player in this format.
Neither can Hardik Pandya be dropped as his pyrotechnics at No 7 is just what is needed from a batsman used as a floater in the order.
Jasprit Bumrah is another specialist bowler, who is a certainty in the playing XI, with his ability to bowl Yorkers at will at the death. Therefore it will either be Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Umesh Yadav, who may have to make way for Ashwin.
In the second Powerplay overs during the Sri Lanka match, India had conceded over 200 runs, something Ashwin will be asked to check as a marauding AB de Villiers will be itching to score big.
On the personal front, Kohli himself would like to lead with the bat against a side that has bowlers like Morne Morkel and all-rounder Chris Morris.
Imran Tahir, whose stock ball is googly, might just test Rohit’s defence as the Mumbaikar had some trouble reading the wrong ‘un from him during IPL.
Some players to look out for:
Indian skipper and one of the current One Day international greats, Virat Kohli doesn't have a great average against the Proteas. Whereas his career average is 53.03, the average against South Africa is just 39.09. The captain needs to produce a special innings in the mercurial clash to ensure his team books a semifinal berth.
MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma
Mercurial Indian batsmen MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma are renowned for their power-hitting. However, the proteas bowling line up has always got the better of them. Whereas Rohit Sharma has a career average of 42.06, against south Africa he has an average of 28.08.
MS Dhoni too hasn't flourished against the Proteas as he has an average of 31.61 against them in comparison to his career average of 51.02.
AB De Villiers
One of the most inspirational captains in the ODI Arena, De Villiers has redefined batting in the shorter formats. Known for his dominating attitude with the bat, Villiers is renowned for hins unorthodox shots which can flummox opposition bowlers. His six hundreds is the second most for any player against India in ODIs, just behind Sanath Jayasuriya's seven. Further, he has scored three hundreds in his last five innings against India.
Quinton De Cock:
The mercurial wicketkeeper batsman can obstruct India's passage to the semi-finals. In the 9 matches that he has played against India, he has scored five centuries at an average of 74.11 and a strike rate of 98.
Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis is another player who can turn the tables against India. Whereas his ODI career average is 43.49, against India he scores at a rate of 55.78.
With an interesting main plot and layers of sub-plot, one can brace up for some exhilarating action between two quality sides. Irrespective of the outcome of the game, it only augurs well for the tournament if both teams do produce a contest that fits the billing.
India Probable XI:
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah
South Africa Probable XI:
Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (c), David Miller, Jean-Paul Duminy, Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir