India will look to capitalize on South Africa’s two perennial problems — a weakness against spin and inability to win knockout matches in ICC events — as they go head to head in the second semifinal of the World T20 at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Friday. MS Dhoni’s India have overcome a tough group and controversies surrounding the Indian cricket board and its president to remain unbeaten in the tournament.
The scenario is eerily similar to what happened in the ICC Champions Trophy last June in England and Wales. There too, India won the event without losing any game and dodged issues surrounding the IPL and Srinivasan, who chose to step aside till the IPL probe was over. The ICC, in its rankings released on Wednesday, declared that India had replaced Sri Lanka as the top T20 side. Victory over South Africa on Friday will be the perfect way to consolidate the top spot. India will once again rely on the trio of Amit Mishra (leg-spinner), R Ashwin (offie) and left-armtweaker Ravindra Jadeja to unsettle the Proteas, who are being led by Faf du Plessis.
The ball spinning away has historically troubled South Africans and Mishra (9 wickets in 4 matches, avg 8.77, economy 5.26) will be expected to weave his magic again. R Ashwin (7 wickets in 4 games, avg 10.42, economy 4.76) has been a perfect foil. With the new ball, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has rediscovered his movement and whether Dhoni will choose his Chennai Super Kings pacer Mohit Sharma or bring back Mohammad Shami (dropped for the game against Australia) remains to be seen. After all, the 2007 champions’ bowling was touted as weak and was expected to cripple them against powerful hitters.
Ironically, it’s the batting which has been a source of worry. Virat Kohli has been in good touch, as has Rohit Sharma. Yuvraj Singh too returned to form against Australia. He suffered an ankle injury while playing barefoot football on Tuesday, which is a worry. The southpaw even missed training in Fatullah on Wednesday, but media manager RN Baba said he would be fit for the match. Yuvraj’s presence will be crucial as he is someone who can put pressure on Imran Tahir.
Tahir, with 11 wickets in four matches (avg 9.18, economy 6.31), has been a revelation. He has bowled game-changing spells and enabled South Africa to come back from the dead against Netherlands and England. After spending some time with the legendary Shane Warne in the nets, the Pakistanborn leggie will be eager to impress the Australian. Dale Steyn is another factor the Indians need to neutralise. He tends to get wickets upfront and has troubled Rohit in all formats.