India will be looking to register their first World Cup win against South Africa on Sunday
Riding on their successful outing against arch-rivals Pakistan, MS Dhoni’s men now find themselves up against the fiery South Africans – who are yet to lose against India in the World Cup. Both the teams have won their opening games and will be looking to extend their winning run in the tournament when they lock horns in the Pool B game on Sunday.
The Men in Blue romped to a 76-run win over Pakistan to began their World Cup campaign on a winning note. On the other hand, the Proteas got the better of Zimbabwe after witnessing early hiccups in their 62-run win at Hamilton.
Team India, who managed to extend their winning record against Pakistan in World Cup, will now be looking to change their own losing streak against South Africa in the coveted tournament. India have lost all three games(1992,1999 and 2011) they’ve played against South Africa in the World Cup.
Even though South Africa have come out on top against the Indian team in World Cups, the two teams are pretty evenly matched which makes the clash furthermore exciting. Dhoni’s side boast a formidable batting line-up which will face a stern test against the fiery bowling attack of the Proteas. The match will feature crucial battles between the players that will in turn decide the fate of the game.
Here’s a look at the key battles that are likely to decide the Sunday’s clash:
Virat Kohli vs Dale Steyn
The 26-year-old Delhi lad is arguably the best batsmen in the current Indian squad and the onus will be once again on him to perform in the crucial match. The right-hander showcased his batting prowess against Pakistan with a match-winning hundred. His ability to read the game and pace the innings accordingly, makes him a nightmare for the opposition. This exactly why South Africa will need to get rid of Kohli – a task Dale Steyn is quite capable of pulling off. The South African pace machine has been phenomenal against India and the Proteas will be counting on the 31-year-old bowler to come good in the crunch game.
AB de Villiers vs Mohit Sharma
The 31-year-old South African skipper is currently enjoying the form of his life. Armed with some of the most innovative cricketing shots, De Villiers is more than capable of tearing the opposition’s bowling attack. The fact that he holds the record for the fastest century in ODIs only makes the case stronger. After failing to convert his start against Zimbabwe in the opening game, De Villiers will be eager to turn up the heat against India on Sunday. In such situation, Indian seamer Mohit Sharma seems to be a viable option for MS Dhoni. Sharma’s accurate line and length makes up for his lack of pace which can trouble De Villiers who ideally likes the ball to come onto the bat. It will be Sharma’s accuracy against De Villiers’ innovation in Sunday’s clash.
Suresh Raina vs Imran Tahir
The 28-year-old middle-order batsman has been vital cog in the Indian team over the years. His presence adds the much-needed stability to the Indian middle-order. Despite batting down the order, Raina has proved his worth with some crucial innings in the past. His cracking 56-ball 74 against Pakistan in the opening game helped India post a competitive total. South Africa will be wary of Raina’s batting capabilities and hence they will be counting on their leg-spinner Imran Tahir to keep the Indian batsman in check. Tahir’s ability to pick up wickets at a respectable economy rate has helped him cement his place in the side. His spell of 3/36 against Zimbabwe earlier in the tournament shows his current form. The mid-innings battle between these two will be crucial for their respective sides.
Hashim Amla vs Mohammed Shami
The 31-year-old right-hander has been busy scoring runs and breaking records with his bat. An elegant strokeplayer blessed with the temperament to back his skills, Amla has been a crucial player for South Africa over the past few years. While batting high up the order, he is more than capable to provide a steady start to his team. Though he missed out against Zimbabwe in their opening game, Amla is one player that India cannot afford to underestimate. The onus of sending Amla back in the hut early in the innings will on India’s consistent right-arm seamer Mohammed Shami. His ability to move the new ball and extract the reverse-swing in death overs makes him a MS Dhoni’s go-to bowler in limited overs cricket. Shami’s test will be against one of most consistent batsmen when his side takes the field against South Africa on Sunday.
Shikhar Dhawan vs Morne Morkel
The Delhi southpaw was pivotal in the ousting of experienced Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir from the Indian team. But, Dhawan failed to maintain consistency in his batting that has attracted a lot of criticism in the recent tours. With his back against the wall, Dhawan regained his touch with a clinical knock of 73 runs against Pakistan in the opening game. His recent return to form will only add more trouble for the Proteas in Sunday’s clash. Dhawan, who likes to take his time to get going, is most vulnerable early in his innings and the moving ball has been his nemesis over the years now. This is where Morne Morkel comes into play. The lanky fast bowler can extract more bounce than his bowling partners and his pace will only make it worse for Dhawan. The Proteas will be counting on Morkel to get the early breakthrough to put India under pressure.
How Much Confident Indians Player?While Pakistan failed to buck the trend against the defending champions for the sixth time, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men will hope that they turn fourth time lucky after losing to South Africa on three previous editions at the mega event in 1992, 1999 and 2011.
Whether it is Peter Kirsten in ’92, Jacques Kallis in ’99 or Kallis and AB de Villiers in 2011, India have always found a Protea batsman, who had turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for them. In all three defeats, India have batted first and it will interesting to see what decision Dhoni will take if he wins the toss.
Although a group league match in this tournament is of little consequence but the winner of this game might just go a long way in clinching the top spot in group B, considering that the other teams are just not world beaters.
So there’s a few things that will be at stake and teams have a lot to play for. As the two teams clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), South Africa under De Villiers will certainly start as clear favourites against a young bunch led by Dhoni.
Player to player, South Africa seem to possess a far more formidable line-up compared to India, who are just trying to hit the right rhythm post Pakistan victory. While South Africa were a bit patchy in their 62-run win against Zimbabwe, JP Duminy and David Miller’s magnificent late blitz turned the course after the minnows dominated the better part of the match.
As South African captain Graeme Smith has aptly pointed out that it will be a battle between India’s famed batsmen and South Africa’s world class pace attack, the inexperienced Indian bowling will also be put to Test against a quality batting line up led by their talismanic captain, who recently scored the fastest ODI century in just 32 balls.
Virat Kohli’s 22nd ODI hundred, Suresh Raina’s form during the business end of the innings and Shikhar Dhawan being back among runs is a boost team’s confidence, they will face an entirely different test against a far superior South African bowling attack.
An attack led by world’s finest fast bowling pair in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel is not an easy proposition on any track in the world, let alone the MCG, where one can expect even bounce.
If that’s not enough, Vernon Philander as third seamer can be a handful on track that offers a little bit of help. Steyn, suffering from sinus, was not in his element in the opening match against Zimbabwe. He came in as first change, and gave away 64 runs in 9 overs.
While Rohit Sharma would quickly like to get over the disappointment of not scoring against Pakistan, the Kohli-Steyn battle can be as intriguing as the Tendulkar-Steyn battle used to be during earlier days.
While Steyn is likely to torment the Indians with pace and swing, the steep bounce generated by 6ft 4 inch tall Morkel and the movement that can be extracted by Philander will definitely test both technique and temperament of the batsmen. If Philander fails to make it, Kyle Abbott or Wayne Parnell will take his place.
Also Indians haven’t had much problems tackling the leg-spin of Imran Tahir. Whether South African team management would opt for a restrictive left-arm spin option like Aaron Phangiso is there to be seen.
There are a few areas where India will like to worry despite their fabulous win against neighbouring country. Skipper Dhoni’s poor form is a cause of concern for the team although the captain seemed to work extra bit at the nets trying to find ways to counter the short-pitched stuff dished out by the South African attack. The other worry will be India?s batting slump at the death where they lost five wickets for 23 runs.