England are in the unfortunate position of having to face two of the most destructive batsmen in the world – Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers – in the space of three days.
England go into their clash with the Proteas at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Friday having lost their last three T20 internationals, two of which came against South Africa.
They started their World T20 campaign with a six-wicket defeat to the West Indies on Wednesday and the last batsman they would have wanted to face next is De Villiers, a player who has scored a hundred in each if the last two innings he has played at the Wankhede stadium.
De Villiers scored a T20 century, a frenetic 59-ball masterclass, at last year’s IPL game here. He followed it up with a 119 off 61 balls in October last year to help South Africa rack up 438, beating India by 215 runs and clinch the ODI series 3-2.
According to captain Faf du Plessis, the Wankhede pitch is as close to South African conditions as you get in India.
‘Generally it’s a nice T20 run-fest. I suppose you can compare it to the Wanderers. You don’t know what is enough runs on a wicket like this: even if you have set a great total, sometimes it’s not enough.
‘This is one of the grounds in India where there is a bit in it for the bowlers,’ he said. ‘There is a bit of bounce, bit of swing, the ball travels, the wicket is good. The spinner is not as much as in the game as they would be in other grounds in India. We had a warm-up game here and we have a pretty good idea what will work.’
Those last two sentences pretty much puts to bed the chance that South Africa will play two specialist spinners, but what has turned into an even bigger debate is whether or not the selectors will fit De Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla into the same XI.
Du Plessis admitted that it’s unlikely South Africa’s batting order will stay the same throughout the tournament.
‘I have to look at different grounds and different conditions and see where the danger period of the game lies and where it is the easiest time to bat,’ he said.
‘For me the most pleasing thing is the fact that we have got guys in form. We have said before that we will try to adapt our batting line-up to put the guys in form into different places.’