Colombo: India have a chance to snap a string of underwhelming performances in the ICC World Twenty20 since that inaugural run to the title back in 2007 when they take on South Africa at the Premadasa on Tuesday evening. The fight for the second semi-final slot from their group is indeed intriguingly poised as both India and Pakistan have a fair chance of making the cut, with Australia enjoying a healthy run-rate of +1.712 with one match to go – and that leaves South Africa in danger of elimination.
India’s eight-wicket win over Pakistan has kept them in content_cnion for two semi-final slots, but two defeats in a row in the Super Eights is bad news for South Africa. Victory for India will take them to the semi-finals, and if they lose they will have to ensure it is not by a big margin. For South Africa to progress, they must beat India and hope that Pakistan lose to Australia in the match before them, and then look to see how healthy their net run-rate is.
In case Pakistan (-0.426), who are a shade ahead of India (-0.452) in terms of net run-rate happen to win against Australia, MS Dhoni and his men will then have to win comprehensively against South Africa in order to make it to the last four. If Pakistan lose on Tuesday, then everything will boil down to this match. A win against South Africa will be good enough for India to march into the last-four stage. Even in case of a defeat, India should ensure that they don't lose by a big margin.
India will no doubt be buoyant after their impressive performance against Pakistan. Virender Sehwag made a confident 29 on return to the side and Yuvraj Singh also got valuable time in the middle. Gautam Gambhir’s extended poor run will be a worry, however. With the ball, opting for three medium-pacers instead of three spinners worked a charm, and it is unlikely that India will do any more needless experimenting.
South Africa lost both their Super Eights matches in contrasting manner - a close defeat against Pakistan and a comprehensive one against Australia. Even if they win on Tuesday, it would be an unlikely proposition for AB de Villiers' side to seal the semi-final berth as their inferior net run rate (-0.605) at this stage of the tournament makes their case weak.
From entering the tournament as one of the favorites, South Africa have plenty of concerns. Starting at the top, Richard Levi has not been able to score runs and his meek presence as opener has put pressure on Hashim Amla – himself struggling to make a mark in Twenty20 – and Jacques Kallis at No. 3. Amla has not been able to express himself in this format as he has in ODIs and Tests, and opening stands of 4, 8 and 0 since the bashing of Zimbabwe show where South Africa are struggling. This makes a case for Levi to be make way for Faf du Plessis, but how South Africa manage to get runs out of Kallis is another battle.
South Africa’s bowling held it together in the group stage but in the Super Eights it has been disappointing. Against Pakistan, South Africa had the opposition on the mat before de Villiers surprisingly went back to pace and saw Umar Gul and Umar Akmal cart runs for fun. Albie Morkel was expensive, but his replacement Wayne Parnel went for 25 in two overs against Australia. Johan Botha too has not been a potent force, meaning South Africa have been too reliant on Kallis.
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 L Balaji
South Africa: 1 Richard Levi, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt/wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Robin Peterson, 8 Albie Morkel/Wayne Parnell, 9 Johan Botha, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel