The key to a Proteas victory against India on Sunday lies in the bowling attack, says Graeme Smith.
In his column on the ICC website, he pays tribute to the Indian batting line-up, and believes it is vital to make an early breakthrough.
‘The Proteas will know the importance of striking up front early so not to allow the top three to set a platform for the middle-order,’ he writes. ‘The match will be a contest between the Proteas bowling attack and the India batting line-up.’
But he feels that batting line-up is vulnerable, especially on the Australian tracks.
‘Suresh Raina seems to be finding form with the bat at the right time with two consecutive scores of 70 plus. [Ravindra] Jadeja has a fair average and healthy strike-rate but has historically fared poorly on quicker tracks and has been struggling for form coming into the tournament. Ajinkya Rahane may still be trying to figure out his role in the batting line-up. While [MS] Dhoni is currently going through a lean patch, I am hesitant to read too much into this as he has proved his match-winning and finishing abilities time and time again over the past 11 years.’
To exploit this, says the former captain, he wants to see Wayne Parnell playing ahead of Farhaan Berhardien. ‘This will also allow him to bowl at their left-handers [Dhawan, Raina and Jadeja]. There will be a school of thought that believes the team requires an extra batsman as a contingency measure, but I feel David Miller and JP Duminy allayed those fears on Sunday.
‘Dhoni will rotate his bowlers astutely and will certainly not be subscribe to the conventional in the field. Nevertheless, South Africa’s top six will back themselves to score the bulk of the runs be it setting or chasing. ‘
The toss and the decision to bat, or not, would also be important, says Smith.
‘Since 2013, India has won more One-Day Internationals when chasing than any other team, hence it will back itself to chase down anything. MS Dhoni and Virat Kholi will instil this belief in it. But these two teams have played three times in the World Cup, with South Africa chasing down the target with only a few balls to spare on each occasion. History and the record books will show that the Proteas only need to ensure they bat second to emerge victorious. However, the script in these fixtures has never been that simple.’