Melbourne, Feb 21: India kept alive their streak of having beaten Pakistan in every World Cup contest. On Sunday, however, they will look to straighten a record when they take on South Africa in a Pool B match in the sport’s pincle event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here.
India have played the African tion thrice (1992, 1999 and 2011) in World Cups and each time ended up as the losing side.
This time around both teams go in to their respective second encounters of the 2015 edition with a win in their openers.
India comprehensively defeated traditiol rivals Pakistan last Sunday at the Adelaide Oval. That victory will definitely give the defending champions the confidence they needed to build the momentum, following their dismal tour of Australia. They have had a week’s rest and should be gunning to take to the large MCG field in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, South Africa also come in to the match with a win over neighbours Zimbabwe last Sunday at Hamilton.
The African side has one of the strongest batting line-ups in the world, if not the best. Captain AB de Villiers and opener Hashim Amla are ranked No.1 and No.2, respectively, in Intertiol Cricket Council’s (ICC) One-Day Intertiol (ODI) batting rankings. That itself says a lot about the destructive ture of the duo, who along with India vice-captain Virat Kohli have been the most consistent batsmen in the world in the last couple of years.
Other opener Quinton de Kock is ranked No.10. If that wasn’t enough, when the top order failed against Zimbabwe, middle-order batsmen David Miller and JP Duminy struck form at the right time to hammer centuries.
It will be a huge task for the inexperienced Indian pacers to, firstly, contain the South Africa batsmen, and secondly, pick up their wickets. Mohammed Shami will have to lead the attack. Though Mohit Sharma bowled well against Pakistan, he did not have to deliver balls to batsmen of the calibre of Amla or de Villiers.
When it comes to India’s batting, Kohli is the answer to de Villiers or Amla. The 26-year-old has been India’ prime batsman for the last couple of years, is a big-game player, and is also amongst runs following his match-winning knock of 107 against Pakistan.
The good thing for India was that opener Shikhar Dhawan has also looked in-form recently. Left-handed Suresh Rai’s explosive innings and the ever-dependable skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni provide the stability India needs in the middle-order.
However, the Indian batsmen will have to be wary of one very fast bowler — Dale Steyn — who can wreak havoc for any batting line-up in the world on any given day. Steyn’s pace and accuracy is a lethal combo any captain would ask for.
Dhoni will have another important issue to discuss with the team magement ahead of the clash and that is the bowling combition.
In the last match, he went in with three pacers and two spinners and the ture of the MCG wicket Sunday morning will play a vital role in determining whether Dhoni keeps the same winning combition or goes for an extra spinner or, may be, try something else.
Whatever it is, the winning team will gain a huge amount of confidence and momentum in Pool B and will emerge as the team to beat in the group. With the set of matches against ‘weaker’ teams, the victor is likely to emerge as the group-topper. IANS