Mumbai: Bruised and battered by the Chris Gayle mauling, England are faced with a must-win situation as they look ways to contain South Africa in their ICC World Twenty20 match here on Friday.
Shell-shocked by Gayle’s record 47-ball century, England are required to win against the Proteas, to whom they lost 0-2 in the tune-up to the tournament, if they are to progress to the semi finals from Group 1.
The 2010 champions’ under-fire bowlers and fielders will be up against a strong rival batting line-up comprising the innovative A B de Villiers holder of the world’s fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODIs, big-hitting David Miller and the solidity of captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and J P Duminy. The key, perhaps, would be how effectively England’s spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali can perform after being sent to the cleaners by the big-swinging bat of Gayle who struck successive sixes into the top tiers of the Wankhede stadium off both these slow bowlers.
They were tilted over for 171 as recently as February 21 at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg by the Dale Steyn-less Proteas’ bowling attack comprising young tearaway Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir.
South Africa chased the target for the loss of just one wicket with openers de Villiers and Hashim Amla smashing half centuries to help the side complete a 2-0 win.
In the opening game of that series at Cape Town, Tahir bamboozled the England batsmen with a four-wicket haul before South Africa chased down the small total of 134 for the loss of seven wickets. With Steyn back into the squad after his injury woes, South Africa’s bowling attack looks truly formidable, though the track at the Wankhede is a bit different from those back home.
England, for their part, could re-jig their bowling attack a bit and rework on their strategies to stop the South Africans who have, in the past, been saddled with the tag of chokers hung around their neck in ICC events.
Apart from their spinners, England’s pace battery was also ripped apart by Gayle and Marlon Samuels who belted sixes off Ben Stokes and David Willey.
If England want to alter their pace combination they have Liam Plunkett, a late replacement for the injured Steve Finn, to call upon to fill in for one of the pacers.
They also have a slow left-arm bowler in Liam Dawson to fill in for Rashid, whose confidence could be a bit down after being mauled by Gayle, as Ali lends more depth to the batting.