This is the second of India’s two high-profile group matches before they move on to less fancied sides. The Pakistan match was, for sure, the one with greater pressure, and India came through with a comprehensive performance – they started strongly with the bat, and despite a poor last five overs, had more than enough on the board in the end.
South Africa, on the other hand, lost their top four cheaply against Zimbabwe, but recovered to post 339. Zimbabwe were 137 for 1 before losing steam in the chase. The margin of victory was comfortable eventually, but it is India who will have taken more confidence from their opening match against their biggest rivals.
Both sides have played at the MCG in recent months, and will be aware of the challenges it poses, such as the large square boundaries. There will be a massive turnout too in all four tiers of the stands, mostly in favour of India with their fans having travelled from across the world to watch the Pakistan and South Africa games especially and Allan Donald recognised that by terming it a “home” game for India.
The match may not have a lot of bearing on qualification for the knockouts, but it has been one of the clashes to look forward to in the group stage. Both teams and players have seen a lot of each other in recent times, including in the IPL. As AB de Villiers said, they respect each other, but know the relative strengths and weaknesses only too well.
(last five matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWLWW
In the spotlight
The last time India played at the MCG, a month ago, Rohit Sharma made 138 and missed the rest of the tri-series with a sore hamstring. He returned with 150 against Afghanistan in a warm-up game but could not build on a start against Pakistan. The Champions Trophy encounter between the two sides in June 2013 was the start of the Rohit-Dhawan opening partnership, and his team wouldn’t mind a repeat.
AB de Villiers had a start against Zimbabwe too, but left South Africa in a tricky position at 83 for 4 before David Miller and JP Duminy made centuries. Virat Kohli said the kind of freakish shots de Villiers is capable of playing can easily make the opposition’s bowling plans go wrong. The only time he has played an ODI at the MCG, de Villiers hit 91 off 88 last November.
After trying out various combinations during the triangular one-day series, India went back to their three fast bowlers-two spinners attack against Pakistan, and they should stick to that, although Stuart Binny had a heavy workload during training on Friday.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
South Africa (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers(capt), 5 David Miller, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Farhaan Behardien, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
De Villiers said that the surface for South Africa’s ODI against Australia at the MCG last November was one of the slowest he had played on. Virat Kohli said there would be some pace and bounce. Those opinions also tell you about the conditions the two players call home. There have been three ODIs here in the past four months. Australia chased down 270-odd twice, and racked up an insurmountable 342 in the third. There was a brief shower in Melbourne on the eve of the match, but weather is likely to clear tomorrow with a high in the mid-thirty degrees.
Stats and trivia
- India have lost three out of three to South Africa in the World Cup, although they have won three out of three against the same opponents in the Champions Trophy, including two semi-finals
- The sides have met just once before in Australia, in the 1992 World Cup in Adelaide
“South Africa are one of the top sides in the world. They have a good balance of batting and bowling, and their fielding has raised standards in international cricket. To get over that hurdle tomorrow will be an immense self-belief booster for us.”
“I’m pretty happy that it’s going to be packed. The last few games I played here it wasn’t full, and it almost feels wrong in a way. You almost get lost in the middle out there, it’s so big. ”
AB de Villiers on the MCG