Defending champions India came into the tournament riding high in confidence, and having proven their superiority in all departments of the game. The No.1 Test team in the world, with a world class lineup of bowlers, and proven batting order that could take apart any side in the world, Kohli’s men were expected to do very well in England.
However, call it the fickleness of the tournament format, or just complacence, India now are staring down at elimination heading into their final league game against the mighty South Africans. A defeat will send them tumbling out of the tournament, only a week after they vindicated fans and their own selves with a merciless demolition of Pakistan.
This is not just India’s story though – South Africa wobbled similarly, and are in exactly the same position. After they defeated Sri Lanka comfortably and appeared to have hit the sweet spot, the No.1 ODI squad in the world lost to Pakistan in the second match, effectively opening up the group and making today’s match, and the match after that, virtual quarterfinals, with the winning team of each game progressing to the semi finals. A word of caution though – each team should hope rain does not play spoilsport, as a no result will produce ties that will be decided on net run rates, known to have caused enough heartbreak before.
With consecutive scores of 300 plus in the last two matches, India’s batting looks healthy, and skipper Kohli will be worrying about what changes to make to the bowling lineup to avoid the disaster of the last match. Veteran spinner Ashwin looks set to make a comeback, given Ravindra Jadeja’s flat performance the other day with the ball. However, the team may still want Jadeja’s all round performance – his electric fielding and late order batting brings much to the team besides his bowling. It might ultimately have to be Umesh Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar who might have to sit it out. Ashwin is most effective against left handers, and Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and David Miller, all left handers, have looked dangerous in the last two games, barring perhaps Duminy. de Kock was South Africa’s hero in the first game, whereas Miller’s sedate 75 helped South Africa reach a respectable 221 in a losing cause.
For South Africa, the batting looks sturdy, with the likes of de Kock, Amla and de Kock in fluent form. Amla scored a fluent century in the first game, and India will be wary of the veteran batsman. Also in excellent form is pacer Morne Morkel, who almost missed the bus on this tournament, but has performed very well in the last two games. Indian batsmen, especially Kohli, will have to master his pace and bounce if they have to do well today.
The match is expected to be a cracker of a game, with teams evenly matched and stakes high. A prediction at this stage is almost impossible, although one could bet on a great game today as the two heavyweights fight it out to stay alive in the prestigious tournament.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Dinesh Karthik, Ajinkya Rahane.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), David Miller, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Keshav Maharaj, Farhan Behardien, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwayne Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada.
Match starts 3 PM IST.