Proteas batting coach Neil McKenzie says the side will be able to play their normal game, despite the do-or-die situation against India on Sunday.
Group B of the Champions Trophy has turned out to be one of the most predictable ones in major-tournament history. Despite the rain dominating the majority of the matches in this tournament so far, there has been a result in every Group B game, and when Sri Lanka stunned India by seven wickets at the Oval on Thursday, it left each side with a victory apiece.
It means the final two group games are essentially quarter-finals, and it’s not a scenario that the Proteas would’ve foreseen after beating Sri Lanka as convincingly as they did in their opener. That’s become a reality after they lost to Pakistan, and they take on a side who have beaten them in the past two big tournaments.
While those victories, both inspired by Shikhar Dhawan centuries in 2013 and 2015, were in the group stages, they didn’t have the knockout billing that this match carries at the Oval on Sunday. McKenzie insists that it’s not going to affect the way they’re going to approach the game. Sticking to the strategy in do-or-die situations is something he’s emphasised over the past couple of months, and he believes his players are sufficiently prepared.
‘The guys understand that they’ve put themselves in a one-off situation,’ Mckenzie says at the indoor nets at Lord’s. ‘There is always pressure on these occasions, but we’ve prepared really well and the cricket we’ve played over the past 18 months suggests that if we play somewhere close to our best we should be able to come out on top.
‘You take a knockout game a little bit too seriously because there’s no insurance there,’ he continues. ‘We’ve had a lot of chats over the past couple of months about keeping things exactly the same and being okay with extra nerves and trusting the guys you play with. It’s okay to feel extra tension, but it shouldn’t affect our performance.’
India brushed aside Pakistan with ease in their opener at Edgbaston on Sunday, but their weaknesses, which centres largely on their fast bowlers, were exposed in fearless fashion by the Sri Lankans. It’s the spinners who McKenzie targets as a threat.
Ravichandran Ashwin hasn’t made an appearance in this tournament yet, but that’s likely to change on Sunday, which will bring back memories of the way he tore apart the South African batting lineup in their Test series in India in late 2015.
‘India have a quality side with superstars, so it just comes down to who takes the initiative. We’ve spoken about Ashwin to our three left-handers [De Kock, Miller, Duminy] and we’ll go over the footage over the next couple of days. But we’re confident, it’s just about getting our strategy right.’
McKenzie also adds that AB de Villiers is fit and raring to go, but the final fitness tests will confirm his availability on Saturday after he pulled up with a right-hamstring strain during the Pakistan match.
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