India would have wished for swifter progress through the group stages of the Champions Trophy, but their loss to Sri Lanka has transformed both the remaining matches of Group B into a virtual quarter-final. It’s a must win game for India against South Africa at the Oval and could become a nerve-wracking ordeal. On the positive side though, we have nothing less than a blockbuster on our hands.
The result of the match will be significant for more than one reason. If India lose the game, the defending champions will be out of the tournament. If AB de Villiers’ side loses the match, then the No. 1 ODI side gets knocked out of the tournament.
These are the key battles that will decide this survival fight.
Virat Kohli vs Kagiso Rabada
After getting out for a duck against Sri Lanka, Virat Kohli will be determined to pull up his socks and deliver in the big game to take his team across the line. India boast a strong batting line-up but Kohli has the skill and determination to make a telling contribution in any match. The skipper made his intentions clear in the pre-match press conference.
“As a cricketer, personally I crave for games like these. You want to be a part of those matches that are as important as this one and then if you perform in that and your team gets across the line, it’s a different feeling. It improves you as a cricketer,” said Kohli.
On the other hand, world’s top-ranked ODI bowler Kagiso Rabada will be raring to hurt India’s chances by attacking their star batsman. The 22-year-old can generate some serious pace and in England’s overcast conditions, it will be tough to negotiate him.
David Miller vs Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah is arguably the best death-overs bowler in limited overs cricket. And in a crucial match like this, the team will rely heavily on him to dry up runs at the fag end of South Africa’s innings. Coming in to bat at No. 5, the Proteas’ destructor-in-chief David Miller’s role will be to punish Indian bowlers with his power-hitting. Bumrah will be responsible to keep Miller silent, but if he fails, we can very well expect a mini Diwali at the Oval.
Rohit Sharma vs Imran Tahir
Rohit Sharma has played two very matured innings for India so far in the tournament. The opener along with Shikhar Dhawan has been responsible for laying a solid foundation for the middle-order. Sharma, however, has displayed a weakness against leg spin. The memories of him getting bowled off Imran Tahir’s bowling is still fresh in the minds of many.
One must not be surprised if skipper De Villiers hand over the ball to the world No. 2 ODI bowler early in the innings to tame the Indian opener.
Hashim Amla vs Umesh Yadav
Hashim Amla’s ODI record will make any batsman envious. The fastest to 7000 runs and 25 centuries in the 50-over format is also South Africa’s highest run-getter in the Champions Trophy. His calm demeanour often allows him to slip past the radar when we talk about the Proteas’ batting prowess – but he’s one of the most technically sound batsmen in the world – and could wreak unimaginable havoc.
With his pace and accuracy, India’s spearhead Umesh Yadav will pose a challenge for Amla. The bowler will have the opener in his sights and his wicket early on could pave the way for an India win.
Finishers vs Chokers
South Africa last won an ICC tournament in 1998 and have embarrassingly choked at crucial junctures of a global tournament; most famously in the 1999 and 2015 ODI World Cups. On the other hand, India have won three ICC trophies in the last decade. The present team includes many from the successful 2011 World Cup campaign.
While De Villiers and company will aim to shed the tag of chokers, the Indian team will try to inflict more embarrassment on their opposition.
Feature image: Reuters