This World Cup has been a tournament of unprecedented results. The harakiri in Group 1 is such that New Zealand’s resounding victory over Sri Lanka has nearly ensured that one of Australia and England, two prime favorites, will bow out in the Super 12 stage. In Group 2, Zimbabwe’s victory over Pakistan has thrown the cat among the pigeons.
India and South Africa, however, have managed to stay away from the chaos. Winning both their games, India are firmly sitting at top of the table. It could have been South Africa if their game against Zimbabwe was not rained off with the Proteas only 13 runs away from the target. Pakistan dropping points has cleared the way for India and South Africa. But the winner of Match 18 of this Super 12 stage will have one foot in the semifinals. Pakistan will hope it is India, so they have to travel a mile less in terms of points to make their case.
The significance of the venue
The context aside, this is a spicy contest. The venue - Optus Stadium in Perth - adds charm to it like seasonings are added to enhance the flavour. The pitch that has exhibited a lot of juice for the fast bowlers may create a hoax of a big advantage for the Proteas. But that is just the surface narrative. Rewind your mind to September 28, 2022. With some movement on offer, India reduced the Proteas to 9/5 in the first three overs. The destroyers were Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar, none of whom are renowned for their pace. The lateral movement was enough to reduce the Protea fire to dust that night.
Hence, the risk and reward factor evens it out for the Proteas. Especially considering they have a longer tail than many other major Test playing nations in the tournament. A good powerplay with the ball for India can knock over the Proteas early in the contest.
On the contrary, the Indian batting line-up is quite secure against high pace. Facing 140 kph+ deliveries, India have the second highest run-rate (10.5) and batting average (44.7) among the top ten T20I teams.
Considering the bounce factor at Perth, the Men in Blue are also quite secured against back-of-a-length deliveries. In fact, they have the best average off that length this year while the strike-rate is also the second best.
Virat Kohli averages 58.5 against balls pitched short or in the back-of-a-length area while striking at 191.8. For Suryakumar Yadav, the numbers are 38.5 and 208.2.
Hence, it is safe to say if South Africa have the bowling for Perth, India possess the right set of batters for this fixture.
SA’s LHB batting a counter vs India bowlers
South Africa have three left-handers in their top five, all in decent form. Rilee Rossouw and David Miller are on top of T20I batting charts this year. Meanwhile, Quinton de Kock, after a run of low scores, is getting back to his best. After averaging 28.6 from January 2022 until the start of the World Cup, de Kock has scores of 63 (38) and 47* (18) in the two matches in this tournament thus far.
This bodes well against the Indian pacers who have subpar numbers against left-handers.
In the T20I series between these two sides before this World Cup, both Rossouw and Miller scored hundreds. Even though the conditions will be on the other end of the spectrum, this is a match-up to contend with for India.
Need for speed?
India have always preferred playing two spinners in their XI. South Africa featured Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi in their win over Bangladesh. Despite a spotless record for both sides in this World Cup thus far, Perth might force a change to the winning combination of both the XIs.
In the last 10 T20Is in Perth, the spinners have picked only 25 of the 100 wickets to fall. That is a low percentage of wickets for the spinners even considering that the pacers bowl in the more productive phase. On the economy front as well, the spinners have conceded 7.1 runs per over as compared to 7.8 for the pacers.
Thus, it makes complete sense for both sides to go light on spin. India can bring in Harshal Patel for Ravichandran Ashwin. South Africa can bring in Marco Jansen with Shamsi making way.
Shamsi could be a straightforward swap. He averages 52.6 versus India at an economy of 8.9 in 10 matches against India. Bringing in Jansen can keep India circumspect of their age-old Achiless heel of facing left-arm pace upfront. Ashwin is a dicey call. He hasn’t picked wickets but has done the job of a defensive spinner, conceding at only 6.7 runs per over since his comeback in the T20 setup. Beyond numbers, it is the match up which states that Ashwin can subvert the LHB-heavy top five of South Africa to some extent.
Rabada a key factor
Kagiso Rabada has dismissed Rohit Sharma four times in 13 innings in T20s, Surya thrice in 10 innings and Virat Kohli four times again, in 12 innings. Kohli averages only 10.5 facing Rabada. Being the spearhead of the bowing attack, a lot banks on Rabada anyways. But these numbers further escalate the value of Rabada in this match.
The batting coach Vikram Rathour clarified that India are not looking for other opening combinations after KL Rahul’s poor form. Hence, Harshal Patel finding a way in is the only possible change on cards.
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma ( c ), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Axar Patel, R Ashwin/Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Arshdeep Singh
Marco Jansen coming in for Tabraiz Shamsi seems to be a fair call. However, are South Africa ready to drop their skipper Temba Bavuma (average of 9.7 in nine T20Is in 2022) for Reeza Hendricks? Doesn’t seem so.
Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma ( c ), Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Tristan Stubbs, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi/Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi