T20 World Cup: Perth set to witness intense India-South Africa clash in race for top spot in Group 2 (preview)

Playing in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, requires some adjustments for the cricketers to make off the field. Apart from the five-hour travel time from one part of the country to another end, Perth’s time zone is also three hours behind cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

Moreover, with the Men’s T20 World Cup being rain-hit this week, the unpredictability of the weather has to be countered too, with light rain and dark clouds hovering around in Perth. In this backdrop, the Perth Stadium is all set to witness an intense clash between India and South Africa for the race to be toppers of Group 2 in Super 12s on Sunday.

India are the current table toppers of the group with victories over Pakistan and the Netherlands, while South Africa, boasting of a superior net run rate, could have been there if not for rain washing out their pursuit of defeating Zimbabwe in Hobart. India had hosted South Africa in seven T20Is in June and September this year, with the Rohit Sharma-led side being 4-3 ahead.

But Optus Stadium will present vastly different conditions to both teams as compared to the sub-continent, especially with the pitch having some green grass and offering early swing, more pace and bounce. Hitting hard lengths has proved to be rewarding for the bowlers, while running between the wickets will be a vital factor at a stadium with a huge outfield.

With India scheduled to play against South Africa after the Pakistan-Netherlands match is done, it gives them ample time to see what would be the best eleven for an all-important match by seeing the pitch and conditions from the first match of a double-header day in Perth.

“We already have four pacers in our XI including Hardik (Pandya). We will decide our playing XI by looking at the conditions tomorrow. I’m sure everything will be taken into account. We haven’t really sat together yet to discuss because we haven’t been to the ground yet. Once we look at the conditions, I think all the discussions will take place, and then we’ll try and pick the best team that we can.

“As we are playing the second game (at Perth on Sunday), it will give us more insight into how the wicket is playing on that day. All the decisions will be taken, keeping everything into account what happened (in the first match at Perth). We are not ruling anything out at this stage,” said India batting coach Vikram Rathour in the pre-match press conference.

With the bat, India would like for KL Rahul to get amongst the runs before the race to reaching the semifinals heats up. Rahul, who got 51 not out and 57 against South Africa at home in September, would take some inspiration from the previous good showings ahead of Sunday’s clash against the Proteas.

With the bat, India have to be careful and decisive in attacking against the high pace generated by South Africa’s tall fast-bowling attack. In the Proteas camp, their batters also have to be wary of the damage India’s bowling attack can do.

They will bank upon Rilee Rossouw, who got an unbeaten hundred against India in Indore and slammed a magnificent 109 against Bangladesh in their second Super 12 match at Sydney, to lead the charge with the bat, as well as opener-keeper Quinton de Kock. South Africa will also be praying that captain Temba Bavuma gets the big runs, which have eluded him for so long.

With them going to play against Pakistan and Netherlands in the upcoming week, the Proteas have to battle it out for a win on a pacy Perth pitch, while India will back themselves to make it a hat-trick of victories in the tournament at a place where fast bowlers called the shots at the nearby WACA Ground.

Squads

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammad Shami.

South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Heinrich Klaasen, Reeza Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs and Marco Jansen.

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