It is the eighth match of the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2019 but India’s first. On Wednesday, they will meet a South African side which has already faced a couple of defeats and is dealing with a few injury concerns.
Knocked out by England in the World Cup opener, the Proteas were left 21 runs short even against the Bangladesh side after their plan to attack the Bangladesh batting with an extra pacer had miserably backfired. Until the previous evening of the game, no Indian Team player had addressed the media while the South African captain has been busier answering the questions in the press than he has been on the pitch while batting.
India though hasn’t been busy doing nothing; they are training and enjoying themselves. Their skipper visited the Queen, came back to enjoy a game of Paintball with his teammates, and was the first one to turn up for the practice sessions.
When India take the field on Wednesday, they will know exactly what to expect from the wickets in specific and the tournament in large, having seen the performance of all the teams in the tournament so far.
South Africa, in the meantime, are in the midst of a crisis. Their bowlers conceded more than 300 runs twice in two games while their batsmen failed to chase them down on both the occasions. Doing a major damage to the team line up, Lungi Ngidi injured his hamstring in the previous game. They also received another massive blow on Tuesday when Dale Steyn was ruled out of the ICC Cricket World Cup because of a shoulder injury.
While India hasn’t played a game yet, this will be South Africa’s third match within a week and they have had hardly any time to sit back, analyse and come up with some sort of strategy. The going appears to get a little difficult for the Proteas, considering the fact that without Steyn and Ngidi, South Africa will come out to field on a wicket where more than 700 runs were scored just a little under a month ago.
Adding to their woes is the fact that they will be up against an Indian line up which is one of the most destructive batting orders in World Cricket. Virat Kohli is arguably the best ODI batsmen in modern-day cricket, if not across ages; while Rohit Sharma is the only man in the world to score three ODI double hundreds. Both of them together have more ODI hundreds (63) than the entire 15-member South African squad (61).
There hasn’t been a mention of Shikhar Dhawan yet, who just loves ICC tournaments and has an average above 60 in these tournaments. And, even if the Proteas bowlers are good enough to get past the Top 3, there is MS Dhoni, the man himself, in the middle order. South Africa’s abilities are sure to be tested.
It is no wonder that India has a strong batting order, but this is perhaps one of the best Indian bowling line up in ages. The present Indian bowling unit picks up 8 wickets on an average in an innings (since 2015 World Cup) – a testimony to the remarkable success of Indian bowlers across pitches and conditions.
Beware, South African batting as unlike the South African team, Indian pacers and even batsmen for that matter, are fresh, their last competitive game coming in the Indian Premier League which concluded a couple of weeks ago.
India has nothing else to worry about other than perhaps, expectations. On the other hand, South Africa will have the added pressure of having to win five of their remaining seven matches to have any chance of qualifying to the next stage. If the wicket seams, India has Bumrah or Shami; if it spins, India has Chahal/Kuldeep and if there is no hint of help from the bowlers, Virat Kohli will take charge with the bat along with few phenomenal batters of the modern era. The margin for error for the Proteas team then is a bare minimum.
A South Africa win over India, in their current form, will be more of a shocker than a Bangladesh beating South Africa was. With Steyn and Ngidi not fit to play, for South Africa, the focus will be on Kagiso Rabada and seam bowling all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.
For India, of course, it will be a big game for KL Rahul who will be eager to perform for India batting at the much talked about No. 4 position. In the last five matches played here, the average first innings total is 311 – so expect another high scoring contest in the World Cup on Wednesday.
The weather could also play a role in the match as it is expected to be overcast in Southampton and the venue might receive some downpour too.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni(wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik (wk) , Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Jean-Paul Duminy, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen
Where to view: Exclusive broadcast in India on Star Sports Network and Hotstar, in the UK on Sky Sports.