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India vs South Africa could surpass expectations

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India_South_Africa_CricketWhat a shocker of a week it has been. The Champions Trophy has been turned on its head. First Pakistan rose to the occasion & beat the mighty South Africans with a little help from Duckworth-Lewis, then Sri Lanka sent shock waves through the Indian camp after their highest ODI chase which was also the highest chase in the history of the Champions Trophy. Meanwhile, in the other group, Bangladesh defied all odds to beat New Zealand & get those crucial 2 points.

While it’s difficult to imagine the Champions Trophy semi finals without Australia, South Africa or India, at least two of these teams will not make it to the semis.

The clash of India vs South Africa is essentially a quarterfinal.

Let’s look at the last few clashes between India & South Africa. The last time India faced South Africa in an ODI was the 5 match series in India. South Africa won that series 3-2, with centuries from Amla, de Kock, Faf du Plessis & AB de Villiers.

The last time South Africa met India in the Champions Trophy was in 2013. India got home comfortably thanks to the century stand between India’s opening pair, Dhawan & Rohit; Shikhar Dhawan’s score of 114; and some powerful hitting at the death by Ravindra Jadeja.

In the 2014 ICC T20 World Cup, India beat South Africa by 6 wickets & in the 2012 T20 World Cup, India got home by 1 run. In the 2015 World Cup, India won the group stage match against South Africa by more than 100 runs.

Clearly, when it comes to ICC events, India has had the upper hand in the past 4 -5 years, which makes them favourites before the next match.

Several South African batsmen have taken a liking to India right from the beginning. This includes Alviro Peterson scoring a hundred on his Test debut, Faf du Plessis getting a half century on his ODI debut & Quinton de Kock kickstarting his wonderful form in ODIs. All against India.

Both teams know each other very well, having played against each other many times and as teammates in IPL. In fact, the skippers of both sides have been teammates for over 4 years and good friends off the field.

When it comes to batting, both teams look evenly matched, with Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni & Yuvraj Singh on one side and Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis & David Miller on the other. The Proteas’ bowling, featuring Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir have as their Indian counterparts Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.

On paper, this promises to be a clash of the titans. It’s really difficult to pinpoint what could differentiate one team from another. It would not be surprising to see Ashwin in the lineup, as the Proteas are traditionally not known to be the best players of spin. Ashwin’s good record against AB de Villiers will surely tilt the balance in his favour.

AB himself will play for sure, even if he is at 60% of his fitness & form. Just hearing his name sends shivers down the opposing team’s bowling lineup. In an all important clash, given his appetite to win an ICC Trophy, AB de Villiers will be leading his team out with all the more desire to win.

For India, Mohammed Shami should come in, given his record against Amla. Another point in his favour is his death bowling, something which Umesh Yadav lacked in the match against Sri Lanka.

When it comes to fielding, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers and David Miller have been some of greatest fielders in the recent past. India isn’t too far behind,with fantastic fielders in Ravi Jadeja who has the best arm in the world. His run out of Shoaib Malik against Pakistan was a testimonial to his value in the field. Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya are the other good fielders in the Indian team. MS Dhoni behind the stumps is, at the moment, probably the best limited overs keeper in the world.

India’s fielding hasn’t been up to scratch in last the 2 matches, possibly due to rustiness or not being used to the conditions, but they cannot afford another slip up against South Africa.

All in all, it promises to be a great contest. Both teams bat deep and feature some great bowlers & fielders. It will come down to which teams holds their nerve on the day, which South Africa haven’t been very good at historically. But there is the chance to change all that.

A fielding slip up & letting the occasion get to you will in all likelihood be a deciding factor. India start as favourites, but as the past week’s games have shown, that doesn’t matter once you step on the field.

 

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Saurabh loves being a thinker, analyser on each and every thing under the sun. Penning down thought...

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