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Proteas, Caribbeans in major showdown

Statesman News Service |

CARDIFF, 13 JUNE: With a semi-final slot up for grabs, South Africa and the West Indies will feature in what is going to be a virtual quarter-final match when they take each other on in their last Group B match of the Champions Trophy tournament here tomorrow. South Africa lost their opening game to India before getting the better of Pakistan, results which are similar to what the West Indies have managed so far in the tournament.
India are already in the semi-finals after two wins in two matches, while Pakistan are out of the reckoning. That leaves the Proteas and the West Indies locked in a battle for the second semi-final spot.
South Africa have got a shot in the arm ahead of the crucial match with pace bowler Dale Steyn returning to fitness. He bowled in the nets yesterday without any discomfort after being laid low by a side strain.
“Dale is progressing quite well. He came through his net session today without any discomfort,” Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa’s team manager, who is also a doctor, said yesterday, adding: “We will watch him overnight to see if he wakes up with any stiffness. If he comes through tomorrow’s practice session, he should be available.”
As far as batting prowess goes, both teams seem evenly matched even though the Chris Gayle factor could tilt the scales in the West Indies’ favour if the swashbuckler comes up with one of his hurricane knocks tomorrow. For South Africa, Hashim Amla’s form remains crucial as he would be expected to play the sheet-anchor’s role. A B de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and J P Duminy are the game-changers who can accelerate after a solid start. West Indian batting also features stroke-makers apart from Gayle, who has yet to score big in the current tournament despite being the top run-getter in terms of overall Champions Trophy statistics.
Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo are big-hitters who would be expected to come good. On the bowling front, South Africa will enjoy a distinct edge, especially if Steyn returns to the squad tomorrow.
For the West Indies, spinner Sunil Narine remains a crucial man and he proved his worth yet again when he picked up a couple of wickets against India, albeit in a losing cause, in their previous match.
The South Africans have a strong bowling line-up which stifled Pakistan in their previous game. Medium-pacer Ryan McLaren was especially destructive with a four-wicket haul.