Battle of the favourites to remain in the competition

Match facts

Venue and time: Brit Oval, London; 10:30 AM local and 15:00 hours IST

The main picture

They started the eighth edition of the Champions Trophy as favourites, but only one among India and South Africa will remain in this competition after Sunday. After comprehensive victories in their opening encounters—South Africa beat Srilanka by 96 runs and India won by 124 runs (DLS method) against Pakistan—few will have envisaged these two teams to be in danger of exiting this tournament at the group stage. But what we have witnessed this week, in particular, is the ruthless nature of the Champions Trophy, with even one defeat having major repercussions on a team’s standing in their group.

Team India looked and played like an accomplished side against their arch-rivals last Sunday. They batted magnificently and the bowling attack, which is their bigger strength currently, justified why we rate it so highly. Sarfraz Ahmed and co. had made India’s life easier, though, by being poor in all departments. Fast forward four days and India began their second Group B match as favourites, against Srilanka. And, though the batting line-up produced as good a performance as in their previous Group B match, India’s bowling and fielding left a lot to be desired. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/54) and Jasprit Bumrah (0/52) bowled measly spells, but as a unit, the Indian bowling attack had a real bad day at the office and 321/6 proved insufficient.

For the do-or-die clash against the Proteas, India’s playing XI is expected to have a couple of changes and what we should also have an eye out for is the approach of the Indian batting unit. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have provided two wonderful starts—136 against Pakistan and 138 against Srilanka—laying a solid foundation for the middle order to play freely in the second half of India’s innings. But at a time when 300+ scores are being chased down with relative ease and great regularity, India, even with their incisive bowling attack, will want to have a total close to 350 at least. And to set such a target, the batsmen, needless to say, have to be more aggressive during the two powerplay phases (1-10 and 11-40 overs).

South Africa were undone by Pakistan’s flatter-trajectory spinners, with Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers falling to Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim, who in many ways broke the spine of the Proteas’ batting line-up. I am sure that the South Africans anticipate facing a lot of overs of spin when they play India as well. And if you ask me, spin will have a major bearing on Sunday’s clash at the Brit Oval. In Imran Tahir, South Africa themselves have a quality spinner who will be a significant threat to the Indian batsmen.

The world No. 1 ODI bowler, Kagiso Rabada, has been a bit disappointing in this tournament so far, conceding 82 runs and picking just one wicket in 15 overs. And South Africa’s bowling, in general, hasn’t been lethal at the start of the innings, with the Srilankan and Pakistani openers (particularly Niroshan Dickwella and Fakhar Zaman) going after them in the first powerplay and seizing the initiative. The bowling form of Rabada might be a slight worry for the team management.

Group B semi-final qualification scenario

The equation for these two teams is straightforward: win and you will progress to the last four of Champions Trophy 2017. A no-result will send India into the semi-finals on account of their better net run rate (+1.27 to South Africa’s +1.00).

India vs South Africa in Champions Trophy

Played 3, Indian wins 3 (ICC Knockout Trophy 2000, Champions Trophy 2002 and 2013)

Head-to-head record and previous meetings are not at all significant, with the performance on the day mattering the most. Before Thursday, India had not lost to Srilanka too in this competition.

Team news and playing XI

At the time of writing, these two teams have no injury complaints. The Proteas held only an optional practice session on Friday, but they will work with high intensity on Saturday, a day ahead of the all-important match.

I expect Team India to make two changes from the loss to Srilanka. Ravichandran Ashwin—who has been much talked about since the start of this tournament, with many wanting to see him play alongside Ravindra Jadeja—is likely to replace Hardik Pandya, who was expensive with the ball (0/51 from 7 overs) against the Lankan Lions. The other possible change is Mohammed Shami replacing Umesh Yadav, who, like Hardik, struggled for consistency in his lines and lengths and was taken to the cleaners on Thursday. The rest of the playing XI is expected to remain the same from last match.

India’s probable playing XI vs SA: 1. Virat Kohli (c), 2. Rohit Sharma, 3. Shikhar Dhawan, 4. Yuvraj Singh, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Kedar Jadhav, 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. Ravichandran Ashwin, 9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10. Mohammed Shami, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Actual playing XI for India: 1. Virat Kohli (c), 2. Rohit Sharma, 3. Shikhar Dhawan, 4. Yuvraj Singh, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Kedar Jadhav, 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. Ravichandran Ashwin, 9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10. Hardik Pandya, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

South Africa have fielded their best playing XI in their first two fixtures and taking a closer look at their squad, the Proteas can ideally make just one change. Wayne Parnell hasn’t set the stage on fire with either bat or ball, and the South African team management might look to bring in the right-arm medium pacer Andile Phehlukwayo, who averages 64.50 with the bat in seven ODI innings and his big-hitting ability lower down the order will always be handy. Other than this, I do not foresee the one-time winners of this competition tinkering too much with their line-up.

Probable XI for SA vs IND: 1. AB de Villiers (c), 2. Quinton de Kock (wk), 3. Hashim Amla, 4. Faf du Plessis, 5. Jean-Paul Duminy, 6. David Miller, 7. Chris Morris, 8. Andile Phehlukwayo, 9. Kagiso Rabada, 10. Morne Morkel, and 11. Imran Tahir

South Africa’s actual playing XI is the same as what Cricfooty had predicted.




Prediction

South Africa once again find themselves in a scenario which necessitates them to be mentally tough and do away with crumbling under pressure, or in other words “choking”. As a unit, they are well-balanced and are chock-a-block with quality throughout their line-up. But having not won a major tournament since the ICC Knockout Trophy 1998, the Proteas will be under pressure to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

As aforementioned, I expect spin to have a major say on proceedings and the batting line-up who play spin better, will give their team a better chance of winning. Despite Thursday’s loss, I expect India to regather themselves and play to potential.

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