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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Australia vs South Africa: Watch out for these duels  

While the focus was on India's semi-final against New Zealand in Mumbai, Australia and South Africa quietly went about with their business — planning, strategising and honing their skills for Thursday’s last-four stage contest at Eden Gardens

Sayak Banerjee Published 16.11.23, 09:47 AM
Quinton de Kock; Mitchell Starc.

Quinton de Kock; Mitchell Starc. PTI picture

While the focus was on India's semi-final against New Zealand in Mumbai, Australia and South Africa quietly went about with their business — planning, strategising and honing their skills for Thursday’s last-four stage contest at Eden Gardens. The plots and subplots around the game can be unravelled through some key match-ups. Which ones? Read on

De Kock vs Starc/Hazlewood

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Quinton de Kock has simply dominated most bowling attacks, including that of Australia in the league phase, to score four centuries and feature among the top three run scorers in this World Cup. With shots to all corners, De Kock has also proved his mastery on Indian pitches, leaving very little room for bowlers to relax. More importantly, he hasn’t given a good start away with a reckless stroke.

That said, he too has his flaws, which the Netherlands and India showed. That area just outside the off-stump is a problematic one for the South Africa opener and keeper-batter, something India pacer Mohammed Siraj had shown. If Mitchell Starc is a little more consistent with his lines and slips in a yorker, with Josh Hazlewood continuing with the off-stump line, Australia do have a fair chance of picking De Kock up within the Powerplay.

Marsh vs Rabada

If Mitch Marsh connects and keeps going, he will just take the game away from the opposition in no time. That’s irrespective of the nature of the pitch or conditions. Assuming he will continue to be in the XI, especially after the unbeaten 177 against Bangladesh, Marsh could be Australia’s ideal weapon for a counterattack if they lose any one of the openers (David Warner or Travis Head) early.

For South Africa’s pace attack, the Eden track, which is expected to be slow and dry, will be a challenge. It will be a task in particular for Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, so in that case, Kagiso Rabada’s role becomes critical. Against India at the Eden, Rabada was the only Proteas bowler to exercise some control with his variations.

On Thursday too, Rabada needs to mix it up well with his yorkers, slower ones and cross-seam stuff. And yes, target that off-stump frequently as that’s Marsh’s weakness as well.

Maxwell vs Maharaj

Just like Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, too, can go ballistic on his day. Maybe he’s even more dangerous as he played a sensational innings (201 not out) to bail Australia out against Afghanistan despite all the physical discomfort he was in.

But will Maxwell be as devastating against quality, disciplined spin bowling? One can’t be so sure. Left-arm chinaman Kuldeep Yadav had bamboozled him in Chennai, which does suggest that South Africa would do well in utilising Keshav Maharaj to negate the Maxwell factor.

Moreover, the dry Eden pitch, having a barren look, will aid spinners and more so in the second session. “Keshav’s a great match-up for Maxwell. Very interesting to see what that pitch brings along with,” South Africa pace legend Allan Donald agreed.

Klaasen vs Zampa

By Heinrich Klaasen’s standards, it has mostly been a quiet World Cup so far. However, if Australian bowlers pitch it in his arc, Klaasen — who was blazing away before the World Cup — has the power to belt it for a boundary as well as into the stands. And if he’s set, he’s as dangerous as a Maxwell or Marsh.

When on song, Klaasen doesn’t spare spinners too. Yet, spin is a problematic issue for this brawny middle-order batter. Consistently bowling the wicket-to-wicket line makes matters tougher for Klaasen, so Australia may have his number if leg-spinner Adam Zampa bowls the right lines and slips in a googly.

Miller vs Cummins

David Miller’s abilities as a finisher, be it in international cricket or the IPL, are known to all. If he’s there at the death and well-set, it will be tough times for South Africa’s opponents as he can even manufacture shots alongside the stand-and-deliver stuff with minimum effort.

But how Miller tackles Australia captain Pat Cummins at the death could be another important aspect of the game. It isn’t too easy to get Cummins away in the slog overs, for his slower delivery and wide yorkers with other variations keep him a step ahead of the rival batters.

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