Cricket World Cup 2023: India takes top spot in battle on South Africa

India-SA. Photo courtesy: UNI

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Kolkata/IBNS: Cricket World Cup 2023 Tournament pacesetters India are taking on South Africa at the iconic Eden Gardens here on Sunday in a battle between first and second in the table respectively.

South Africa will be wary of the India challenge going into the Kolkata encounter.

The last time the tournament hosts ran into an undefeated side, not only did they come out on top, but also managed to send the New Zealand campaign into a tailspin. The Kiwis lost their next two contests at the World Cup.

India’s top five have all shown form, with even Shubman Gill getting among the runs at Wankhede with a solid 92.

India’s pace attack has looked leagues ahead of their counterparts, performing with aplomb under the lights in their last two fixtures. And barring New Zealand’s semi-successful charge, Kuldeep Yadav continues to bamboozle the opposition batters.

While the side will miss important all-rounder Hardik Pandya for the rest of the tournament, skipper Rohit Sharma will hope that the remaining squad members continue standing up in the manner they have so far.

However, South Africa will know that batting first has worked in their favour so far in the tournament. The Proteas have thrived with that option, regularly crossing the 350-run threshold with ease.

Other than skipper Temba Bavuma, all the other top and middle-order batters have had a scintillating run in the World Cup so far.

And even if they don’t get their preferred bat-first, there is enough firepower in the South Africa pace attack to rattle India. In addition, they carry a strong spin arsenal in Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi.

An important factor in the contest will be the wicket in Kolkata, which hasn’t yielded big-scoring games so far.

Having returned to the India playing XI after an injury to Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami has made the global tournament his very own with three stupendous bowling displays.

While his 14 wickets at a mind-boggling average of 6.71 are exceptional at the very least, what has stood out is the manner in which he has gotten these wickets.

He has struck regularly in his opening spell, managing to eke out big top and middle-order batters.

If South Africa’s batting first juggernaut is to be stopped, Rohit will know that Shami will have to play a crucial role.

The task for South Africa’s opening star Quinton de Kock will be quite straightforward: to keep doing what he has been doing and scoring plenty of runs.

The tournament’s leading run-scorer has batted at an exceptional strike rate of 112.6. He has four tons in this World Cup and would love to add another one at Eden Gardens.

Having already taken on and succeeded against good bowling attacks in the tournament, de Kock will now look to excel against the Indian challenge.

When it comes off, the southpaw’s usual blistering style at the top is well-supplemented by the big-hitting prowess that the Proteas possess lower down the order.

And Temba Bavuma’s side will hope that de Kock gets going in style against India.


India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav.

South Africa: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.