CUP QUEST:India look to get third time lucky

Bridgetown (Barbados): One team has been there thrice and tasted success in the inaugural edition itself. The other has made its maiden T20 World Cup final. It will be experience against odds when India take on South Africa in the summit clash of cricket’s shortest format at the Kensington Oval here on Saturday.

Rohit Sharma’s Blues have been playing bright cricket in the Caribbean during the business end of the tournament and have peaked in time for the big match, evident from emphatic wins against Australia in the Super Eight stage and England in Thursday’s semifinal in Guyana.

They have flown straight into Barbados since and kept themselves off the ground on the eve of the final, ensuring enough rest ahead of the title round.

For India, this is a third successive final at the global stage, after the World Test Championship and ODI World Cup, both of which they lost to Australia last year. Having not won an ICC Trophy since 2013, they are hungry for silverware.

South Africa’s only big title has been the inaugural ICC Knockout Trophy (which was later renamed as Champions Trophy) way back in 1998. They progressed to the final of the T20 World Cup after two failed attempts at the semifinal stage.

However, both teams are unbeaten in the tournament and stake claim to the top prize — a first at the World Cup that a team emerges champion without dropping a game. That sets up an intense contest.

India have also won 35 of their 50 T20 World Cup matches, the highest of all teams in the tournament’s history. Captain Rohit is India’s leading run-getter at this event. He is also third on the tournament batters’ list with 248 runs, needing 34 more to overtake Rahmanullah Gurbaz as the top scorer.

Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya are the next best and have served the team very well in different, difficult situations. However, opener Virat Kohli’s dismal run is a concern ahead of the all-important encounter — he has 75 runs from seven innings. India will hope the former captain comes to the party and proves he is a big match player.

The batting bunch will do well to mark some crafty bowlers in the South African camp. Pacers Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen & Kagiso Rabada and left-arm spinner Tabrez Shamsi pose a threat. Nortje and Jansen have bowled the most dot balls in the tournament so far — 102 and 96 respectively. Nortje’s 13 wickets are also the most for any South Africa bowler at a single men’s T20 World Cup.

On the batting front, India would be wary of explosive Quinton de Kock at the top, followed by the dangerous Heinrich Klaasen and Tristan Stubbs in the middle order. David Miller is another batsman they cannot afford to drop their guard against.

However, with an attack that has been performing consistently, Rohit will rest easy. Arshdeep Singh is second on the bowling list with 15 wickets, two less than Afghanistan’s Fazalhaq Farooqi. At No. 5 is spearhead Jasprit Bumrah (13) who has been regularly setting up victories. South Africa will also have to deal with Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who has proved a handful for the rivals here, leaving batsmen in a daze with his baffling deliveries.

The allround skills of Axar Patel, Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja should stand the team in good stead as they did in the semifinal. It’s time to shine.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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