‘IN­DIA CLASH IS A QUAR­TER-FI­NAL’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

us. To dare to dream of semis would be des­per­ately pre­ma­ture, be­cause In­dia presents an Ever­est on its own.

Much like South Africa, and most other teams at this Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, In­dia are a crea­ture of mo­men­tum. If it’s go­ing for them, they soar and be­come im­pos­si­ble to live with, much like Eng­land at the mo­ment.

But, when they stut­ter, they have a soft un­der­belly, one that has Vi­rat Kohli spit­ting his ex­pen­sive dummy in a fash­ion not dis­sim­i­lar to Steve Smith of Aus­tralia. This tour­na­ment, this burst of am­bi­tion and ammunition, is lit­tered with sim­i­lar nar­ra­tives, all sep­a­rated by lit­tle pas­sages of time where things swing one way or an­other. Rain saved Aus­tralia against the Ki­wis, then de­nied them against Bangladesh.

South Africa in­sist that rain hurt them against Pak­istan, but their bat­ting didn’t war­rant vic­tory, and they must again search within, or they will once again be look­ing on, with­out, to man­gle a line from The Great Gatsby.

AB de Vil­liers proudly stated that his squad had 15 po­ten­tial match-win­ners, but this tour­na­ment has only seen 11 of them at play, and per­haps only a hand­ful of those look­ing like win­ning a match. Let them and their of­fer­ings not be left on the ta­ble of con­tem­pla­tion, like pre­vi­ous tour­na­ments.

Com­mon sense dic­tates that the se­lec­tors must con­sider changes, and left-arm spin­ner Ke­shav Maharaj has to come into the pic­ture, as a sup­ple­ment to Im­ran Tahir. For too long South Africa have in­sisted on a one-spin­ner pol­icy, but these over-used sur­faces in the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy may en­cour­age the slower men more.

Morne Morkel can’t be left out again, given the hos­til­ity and sin­cer­ity of his spell at Edg­bas­ton. Kag­iso Rabada is the spear­head, and Chris Mor­ris gives the bat­ting some late mon­grel, or at least the sug­ges­tion of it.

Wayne Par­nell, then, must be in dan­ger, given his lack of con­tain­ment up­front. He is not alone, though. Tour­na­ment suc­cess and sur­vival re­lies mostly on se­nior play­ers stand­ing tall, and the Proteas need in­fin­itely more from their stars come Sun­day.

Miller, with­out a Test cap to his name, dug in and pro­duced the sole bit of grit against Pak­istan, de­spite his job de­scrip­tion lean­ing to­wards griev­ous bod­ily harm. He en­joyed it, he said, but he surely would have loved it more if he had es­teemed com­pany at the other end.

Too many of his mid­dle-or­der men wilted in the Pak­istani caul­dron of the first hour. The Oval will be no place for shrink­ing vi­o­lets, be­cause In­dia will throw the kitchen sink at them. And, if they thought Birmingham sounded like an away game, they will be shocked to hear the deci­bel count in South Lon­don on Sun­day.

The scene will re­sem­ble Mum­bai, and South Africa need to feed off that, rather than be­come car­casses for In­dia and its vul­ture-like mob to tear into.

If South Africa can keep their heads, and play to their un­doubted po­ten­tial, then Mon­day might bring with it hope anew, in­stead of the all too fa­mil­iar woe and ‘if-only’ tales that have be­come part and par­cel of their tour­na­ment his­tory.

They are not alone, mind you. Aus­tralia and New Zealand are also liv­ing off per­mu­ta­tions and op­ti­mistic cal­cu­la­tions, as the tour­na­ment sep­a­rates the play­ers from the puz­zlers this week­end.

If has sud­denly be­come the big­gest lit­tle buzz-word in these parts.

And this tour­na­ment, this hur­ri­cane of bats and balls, is froth­ing up to a sen­sa­tional crescendo.

Who said 50-over fare was dead?

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