Pace like fire, is the common refrain in the game of cricket, and South Africa have one of the fastest bowlers in the world in Anrich Nortje who regularly bowls thunderbolts above 150-kmph to rival batsmen.
The South African fast bowler is clearly one of the men from the rival camp about whom the Indian batters should be wary of as they go into their third Super 12 clash in the ICC men’s T20 World Cup at the Perth Stadium in Perth tomorrow.
With four points from two wins against Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 23 and Netherlands at the Sydney Cricket Ground four days later, India are on a high.
Another victory over South Africa, whom they beat 2-1 in the recent series back home, would take Rohit Sharma and his men to the doorsteps of the semi-finals.
South Africa, third in the ICC World T20 ranking as compared to India’s first, are a strong opponent, especially in these sort of conditions here and on a track which is expected to offer considerable pace and bounce.
They have three points in their kitty from the washed out opener against Zimbabwe and the thumping success against Bangladesh. They will also be charged up to overcome India which would boost their semi-final entry chances.
The sky has also been heavily overcast this morning. It has been cold and breezy. There was a light drizzle in the afternoon when the Indians came for a practise session.
But tomorrow there is a much lower chance of precipitation, according to the weather forecasters.
Thus far India, aiming to regain the trophy after 15 years, have benefited from the top form exhibited by Virat Kohli from the opening game against Pakistan.
Kohli’s outstanding innings of 82 not out that lifted India from the depths to a thrilling last-ball victory last Sunday, was followed by another classy knock of 62 not out against the Netherlands.
These two innings from India’s top batter have instilled great confidence in the team to take on the best of opposition, including South Africa.
Captain Rohit Sharma seems to have also found his touch with his knock of 53 against the Netherlands along with Suryakumar Yadav (53 in 25 balls) in the top order.
The only concern is the lack of runs from opener K L Rahul who has fallen cheaply in both these matches in the World T20 Cup.
The team’s batting coach Vikram Rathour brushed aside any chances of the vice captain of being dropped from the eleven for tomorrow’s game in the match-eve presser today.
“No, we’re not really thinking that. Two games, I don’t think that’s a good enough sample size anyways. He’s been batting really well and he’s batted really well in the practice games, also, so we’re not looking at any such thing at the moment,” Rathour replied when he was asked about Rishabh Pant being brought in to bat at the top of the order.
Pant did not play the first two matches but practiced today with some other team members even as a light drizzle was on. Only Dinesh Karthik and skipper Rohit Sharma, from the eleven which was fielded in the first two games, came for the nets session held outside the stadium.
The bowlers have delivered in both these games with Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar being particularly impressive.
Left-arm rookie pacer Arshdeep Singh has been the most successful having taken three wickets each in the two games.
He is bound to be attacked early on by the likes of Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram and David Miller and this match would be another big test for him.
With the weather being what it is and the pitch not expected to offer much turn, it would be up to the skills and cleverness of left arm spinner Axar Patel and the experienced off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to stem the flow of runs in the middle overs.
India are expected to field the same bowling combination.
At the other end, the South African pace attack looks formidable with Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell all capable of troubling the Indian batsmen with their pace, bounce and lateral movement.
But Rathour was confident about the ability of his team’s batsmen to take on the South African pace bowlers.
“It seems to be a good wicket. I think Melbourne (v Pakistan) was tough, but I think (from) what we’ve seen, this looks better, more even paced and more even bounced. So let’s see how it goes,” he said about the playing surface for tomorrow.
Pacers also could be carried away by the extra bounce that would be on offer and Nortje acknowledged that they need to rein themselves in during his pre-game press conference while hoping that sometime in the future bowlers are allowed to deliver two bouncers per over instead of one as at present.
“Yes, with T20 cricket somewhere in the future, we can have two bouncers per over. But on wickets like this, obviously, you have one bounce over, so you have to try and time it properly and not get carried away. Sometimes it can look nice, but it’s not effective,” said Nortje, who plays for Delhi Capitals in the IPL, in his match eve media meet.
“Yes, we back ourselves. We see ourselves as one of the best pace attacks there is. We have a great variety. We cover a lot of bases with our attack. Definitely as a pace attack, we definitely back ourselves against any team,” insisted Nortje who was at his lethal best against Bangladesh, grabbing 4 for 10 in 21 balls.