India vs South Africa | Thursday 06 June | Cardiff | 11:30
South Africa 8/10
Coming into the tournament under a cloud of suspicion, not only in terms of their clandestine reaction to the spot-fixing scandal in the IPL but in terms of their ability to take on English conditions, the Indian side will be pleased to find the majority of the tracks flat and dry. Their batsmen showed good form in the high-scoring warm-up with Sri Lanka, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik in particular impressing. Their top order crumbled somewhat against the Australian attack in the following warm-up and they’ll want to have a look at their capabilities when it comes to batting first. The worry in the Indian camp will be the lack of penetrative fast bowlers in their line-up. Although it seems as if the Indian side can chase just about any total, they’ll require their pacemen to back up their spin battery both at the front and back ends of the innings. Yadav's five-for in the Australian warm-up is promising. Conversely, the ability to strangle the Indian strokemakers will result in wickets, if sides are patient. All in all, the Indians come into the tournament quite the unpredictable quantity.
It wouldn’t be wise to read too much into the Proteas’ capitulation at the hands of Pakistan in their warm-up fixture. If done in the conventional manner, untelevised and against a less than international side, it would hardly have been noticed. These warm-up fixtures are what they say they are, practice, but are packaged with some importance in the name of hype. With a 15-man batting lineup and JP Duminy coming to the crease at eight after scoring 150 against the Netherlands in a legitimate warm-up, it hardly seems like a cricket match with intensity, does it? I grant that it will sound alarm bells in those that expect a better showing from the Proteas so close to the beginning of a tournament and that the top order could have benefitted from more time in the middle. However, they will take heart from the positive return of JP Duminy to the game and to form, as well as Ryan McClaren’s enterprising time at the crease. The bowling will need to improve and a possible injury to Dale Steyn hangs in the balance. One thing’s for sure, it will be a Proteas side showing hunger come match day.
Sophia Gardens, Cardiff will host this important Group B encounter and has looked dry and bare so far. The Australians made use of early seaming conditions against the West Indies in a warm-up but when the pitch flattened out, the Australians recorded 259 in just 38.5 overs. There should be runs here but if the seamers keep at the right lengths, batsmen can be restricted. The weather conditions look s fine and there should be no interruptions.
BEST: Top Indian Batsman, Dinesh Karthik 5/1
His back-to-back centuries in the warm-up fixtures have almost certainly cemented his place in the side on Thursday and with his confidence sky-high, he'll be a difficult man to remove from the crease. With the unique temperament and ability to shift gears depending on the match situation, Karthik is an asset. Back him to shine.
VERDICT: India 1/1
Although I emerged hastily reinforcing the Proteas' chances in this tournament, the hustle and bustle around injuries coupled with uncertainty around their game plans has begun to put me off. As I said, don't read too much into the warm-ups. But the evidence is there that India are already up and running, while the Proteas seem a step behind. Back the world champions.
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