DHAKA: It’s a world-tournament semi-final. One of the teams has been super smooth, stream-rolling opponents and making for boring efficient one-sided cricket. They have been unbeaten and without a bother in the world. The other has been almost dysfunctional, sorting out batting orders on the fly, relying on a crazy fast bowler with crazy eyes, a wristspinner, and jailbreaks even against minnows. South Africa against a subcontinent nation, then. Except that it is all inverted. India have played like South Africa usually do, probably their smoothest world tournament ever, but they also have the experience of going further: they are the current holders of the World Cup and Champions Trophy, and are gunning for this to complete the set. South Africa have played like a team from Asia, a bit like Pakistan, coming into the tournament uncertain, playing under different captains, somehow finding momentum when it has begun to matter.
South Africa have made four world-tournament semi-finals before this without progressing further. Overall they have made 10 tournament semi-finals, and have progressed only once. Almost every time they have brought to the semi-final the form their opponents have brought to this one. They will be hoping the mad scrambling this time brings them better luck. And, by the way, the only time they won the semi-final, they went on to win the tournament, the 1998 Champions Trophy, coincidentally in Bangladesh.
This classical tournament semi-final duel, albeit with roles inverted, is also a last opportunity for India to get one back over their tormentors from the South African season. South Africa will want to continue their domination of India, albeit in much more challenging conditions, after they were unbeaten on the tour. If India can win this, it will give them a measure of satisfaction after they came close to pulling off a great upset in Johannesburg.
No team has been able to play its natural game against India so far in this tournament. Pakistan came unstuck against discipline, West Indies were not allowed to hit the sixes they like, Bangladesh never really turned up, and by the time Australia came up against them they were already a demoralised side. This is where South Africa’s unpredictability, even though this will be their first match at what has been India’s base, will provide India a challenge. It’s not often that you don’t know what to except of South Africa, but this tournament has not been about the expected.
MEN TO WATCH OUT FOR
AMIT MISHRA: Before this tournament began, Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir would have cast an eye on how their post-retirement funds are doing, and now they are two of the leading wicket-takers and key players for their sides. Legspin has never had it better in T20Is.
FAF DU PLESSIS : Faf du Plessis denied Chennai Super Kings team-mate MS Dhoni that Test win at Wanderers, and they are now opposing captains one last time before they join each other in the IPL. Du Plessis is respectful of how India have done well under Dhoni in big tournaments, but will want to deny him one last time this season.
EXPECTED PLAYING XIS
INDIA: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Ajinkya Rahane/ Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Mohit Sharma/ Mohammed Shami
SOUTH AFRICA: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt.), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Beuran Hendricks/ Aaron Phangiso, 11 Imran Tahir
India v South Africa
TIME: 18:30 IST