Group B: India v South Africa
Date: June 11 (Sunday)
Venue: The Oval, London
76 matches; India 28 wins; South Africa 45 wins; no result 3
When the Champions Trophy 2017 schedule was drawn up, both teams would have expected this match to decide who would top Group B and who would finish second. The first part still holds, but now the match will determine who stays and who makes an early exit from the tournament. That it has come to this is just another reminder that the format of the Champions Trophy and its elite, top-eight nature makes for sub-plots that no one can predict.
South Africa lost to Pakistan, who had been roundly beaten by India. In turn, India lost to Sri Lanka, who had been outclassed by South Africa. That makes this match the first of the virtual quarterfinals of the group, the other one being Pakistan v Sri Lanka the following day.
Both teams held their cards close to the chest as regards team combination, only saying that all 15 were available for selection. Both did hint, though, that changes could be in the offing. India will seriously consider bringing R Ashwin in to counter South Africa’s left-handers, and South Africa might want to tinker a bit too.
In terms of form, both India and South Africa are even. They have each beaten one opponent they were expected to beat handsomely. They have also each lost matches unexpectedly. Both their respective captains and talismans have been dismissed for ducks in those defeats.
This match will then come down to who turns up better on the day, and who can hold their nerve better.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.
Surprisingly enough, the forecast for match-day is mostly bright. It looks likely that there will be a result, which rules out the possibility of the teams sharing points and India thus being assured of qualification because their net run-rate is higher. The Oval has been very friendly for batsmen in the competition, and with bright and sunny conditions, there is no reason for that to not continue.
JASPRIT BUMRAH v AB de VILLIERS
It is not a surprise for any batsman, no matter however great, to be dismissed for a first-ball duck. When it happens in the moment, though, it is still a pin-drop, jaw-drop moment. De Villiers will want to come back strongly from that dismissal against Pakistan, and will be up against a bowler he has faced several times in the IPL. There have been times when the batsman has won out, but Bumrah has had success against de Villiers too. His combination of yorkers and changes of pace and angles has found success against one of the modern-day greats, and the latest round of battle will be fascinating.
India: Hardik Pandya
He can score at better than two runs a ball. He can bowl at 140 clicks too. When both these aspects come off, Pandya looks like a world-class allrounder. However, his bane has been inconsistency, especially with the ball. If he can get his lengths right and if he’s given space to launch an assault with the bat, he can have the kind of day that can turn a match on its head.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock
Easily among the leaders of the next generation of batsmen, de Kock has had a quiet Champions Trophy so far. He is too good a player to be out of touch for too long though, and when he does find form, the opposition end up having no answers. Hashim Amla’s model consistency has been driving South Africa’s starts, but if that is allied to de Kock’s ability to tear attacks to shreds, they will form an unstoppable pair.
WATCH OUT FOR…
Virat Kohli. The Indian captain isn’t used to not scoring. He’s not used to not winning either. Both happened against Sri Lanka. He will be itching to set the record right again. This is Kohli’s first ICC tournament in charge of India’s One-Day International team. He will not want it to end in ignominy. The surest way to ensure that is to try and win the match off his own bat.