Stern Proteas test awaits India’s top-order in Perth

PERTH, Oct 29:

Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje are expected to spit fire on a track that will offer steep bounce as India’s top-order gears up for its toughest test in adverse conditions against a top-notch South African side in T20 World Cup tomorrow.
The match in all likelihood will decide the Group 2 topper and India’s probable semi-final venue.
The WACA has been the traditional venue for many decades but now the newly-built concrete jungle called Optus Stadium hosts the international games.
While it looks like any other modern cricket stadium devoid of WACA’s old world charm, what is similar to both grounds is spicy nature of its track and the good bounce on offer that could make life difficult for batters.
In this backdrop, Rabada and Nortje, two of world’s most fearsome speed merchants are expected to pose some tough questions for Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav.
While Rabada will bowl full and get the bowl to seam and swing at 145 clicks, expect Nortje to mix it up with either back of length or the hard lengths at 150 plus speed.
Both Rohit and Virat are fabulous horizontal bat players and the Powerplay overs will be all about how well the hand-eye co-ordination of the top-order works.
The extra pace off the track will give batters that split second less time to react and it will be interesting to see what will be the approach of the Indian batters.
Will they start to attack from the word ‘go’ or like it has been a trend in this T20 World Cup, play the first 10 overs cautiously and take the attack back to the opposition during the back-10.
While left-handed Rishabh Pant with his audacious stroke-play would have been a good foil for Rohit at the top of the order, it is understood that head coach Rahul Dravid for the time being does not want to look beyond an out-of-form Rahul.
The other alternative to include Pant is to drop Dinesh Karthik, whose keeping in the two matches has been below par.
The Netherlands game isn’t a good enough indication to provide how well Indian team is ready for the Proteas Test.
The last series between the two sides was played on low bounce Indian belters, on which, hitting through the line and plonking one’s front-foot was meat and drink for batters.
As far as South Africa’s bowling combination is concerned, it will not be surprising if they drop left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi and include an extra seamer in either Marco Jansen or Lungi Ngidi.
The Indian team has played Shamsi comfortably in the past and two spinners at the Optus could be a luxury unless they are looking to speed up over-rate.
Tinkering with the winning combination isn’t advisable but with three in-form left-handers in Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller in South Africa’s top six, Axar Patel’s recent match-ups will certainly be in focus while discussing the team combination.
Axar’s economy rate while bowling to left-handers in close to 9 runs per over and with Ravichandran Ashwin in the playing XI, it will be a cover for the Gujarat left-arm spinner.
Also Hardik Pandya in that case might bowl his full quota unless India think of playing Yuzvendra Chahal instead of Axar.
But in that case, they will have to somehow get a left-hander Pant in the side in place of Rahul.
Also being the only left-handed batter in the side (apart from Pant) is also an advantage for Axar.
The only problem in South African top-order is its skipper Temba Bavuma, whose game isn’t suited to the needs of T20 cricket and is looking completely out of place.
However with two of the most exciting players in Tristan Stubbs and Rossouw, South Africa will have an upperhand on Indian bowling attack where only Mohammed Shami has the ability to bowl northwards of 140 kmph.
Rossouw will come into the match with rarest of rare back-to-back T20I hundreds (only other being France’s Gustav McKeon) and will be the biggest threat to Indian bowlers.
Adelaide will be India’s semi-final destination if it topples South Africa on Sunday and then beat Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the next two games.
The topper of the Group plays in Adelaide on November 10.
However, India can end up travelling to Sydney even after topping the Group 2 in case Australia finish as runners-up in Group 1 and sneak into the semifinals. Their fixed semifinal venue is due to a pre-tournament arrangement.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Hooda
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, Tristan Stubbs, Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell, Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi, Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi
Match Starts: 4:30 pm IST. (PTI)