Two of the most powerful sides in world cricket, India and South Africa will square off against each other in a virtual quarterfinal of ICC Champions Trophy 2017 at The Oval, London on Sunday. Both India and South Africa dealt a major blow as they lost their last league matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively.
But, despite these losses both India and South Africa appear like well-oiled units in the limited overs format and are still among the favourites to lift the coveted trophy. If India has the likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Umesh Yadav or Shikhar Dhawan in their ranks, the Proteas too have a handful of some renowned names in their side in form of skipper AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Morne Morkel.
From the outset, it appears to be the biggest clash of this tournament with two heavyweights trying to punch hard in the same category with full force and power. Let’s take a look at some of the close battles which every cricket fan will be dying to watch on the historic Oval ground on Sunday:-
The ‘run-machine’ Kohli made a fantastic start to the ICC Champions Trophy with an unbeaten fifty against New Zealand in India’s first warm-up match. The skipper didn’t had a great run in the lucrative Indian Premier League where he failed to take his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore to the next stage. However, he seems to have found his rhythm back while playing in the national jersey as he played a scintillating knock of 81 not out against arch-rivals Pakistan in the first league match. But, the 28-year old was dismissed for nought against Sri Lanka, if India wants to maintain a upper-hand over SA in their final league match, Kohli needs to fire with the bat for his side.
Just like Kohli, old warhorse Morne Morkel is the leader of the South African bowling unit. The lanky pacer is known for his brutal pace and steep bounce which he generates on the flattest of the surfaces. In the rain-hit fixture against Pakistan, the 32-year old showed glimpses of his old self when he demolished the Pakistani top-order with his pace and swing. He picked up three scalps in that match for SA. If Proteas wants to shed their ‘chokers’, the experience of Morkel will play a crucial role in Sunday’s encounter.
If there is one man who has out rightly justified his selection in India’s Champions Trophy squad it is none other than the Delhi dasher Shikhar Dhawan. The man loves the big stage and his penchant to perform at the big junctures is hard to ignore. After winning the ‘Man of the Series’ trophy in ICC Champions Trophy 2013, Dhawan continues his love affair for the competition with brilliant knocks of 68 (Pakistan) and 125 (Sri Lanka) in consecutive matches. The 31-year will once again have to make the most of his purple patch this time against a stronger opposition in Sunday’s encounter.
In form of Kagiso Rabada, South Africa unarguably has a true genuine fast bowler who can consistently bowl in the 140-150 range and has the ability to move the ball both ways. Currently, the world number one bowler in 50-over format, Rabada is a special talent and has shown his class in his nascent ODI career. 65 wickets in 38 innings at a strike rate of 30 makes this Johannesburg-born speedster a strike bowler in every condition. He will definitely ask a few questions from the famed Indian batting lineup.
India’s star off spinner and world number one Test bowler – R Ashwin didn’t get a chance to play in the first two matches due to the team combination. However, post Thursday’s loss against Sri Lanka, Ashwin’s inclusion is almost definite in the India’s playing XI versus South Africa. Known for his guile and character, the 30-year old spinner would be eager to use this opportunity to his benefit by proving a point or two in Sunday’s must-win clash.
To tackle Ashwin’s brilliance, Mr 360-degree – AB de Villiers will have to put aside the disappointment of first two matches where he failed to contribute for his side and has to lead from the front both with the bat and on the field. De Villiers is still the world number one batsman in one-day cricket and his average of close to 54 and strike rate of 100 above is enough to give any opposition sleepless nights before the match.