SACricketmag.com looks ahead to the five key battles when South Africa take on Ireland in Canberra on Tuesday.
AB de Villiers v Kevin O’Brien
As audacious and entertaining as it was, De Villiers’ 52-delivery century against the West Indies last week wasn’t able to statistically surpass the 50-ball World Cup ton O’Brien walloped against England in 2011. The venue for this match is the same that witnessed Chris Gayle plunder more than 200 runs against Zimbabwe earlier in the tournament, with flat conditions and small boundaries sure to suit two right-handers very adept at going big. The South African will know all that is required for this, while O’Brien – a very adequate all-rounder – can counter with some swift anticipation of his own.
Gary Wilson v Kyle Abbott
Wilson scored a decent number of consolation runs the last time Ireland met South Africa in an ODI, in 2011. Successfully combating an opposition attack that featured Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, the steely wicketkeeper-batsman’s cameo boasted plenty of future value. Four years later, he remains a key component in a unit reliant on its ability to chase big totals. A match-winning half-century against the United Arab Emirates last month spoke volumes of his confidence under pressure, which should make for an intriguing battle against a South African again afforded the chance to cement a berth in the first-choice XI in the absence of the injured Vernon Philander.
Alex Cusack v Quinton de Kock
Cusack is a ‘no frills, no fuss’ cricketer, while de Kock sports a youthful exuberance which pays off – or leaves fans and pundits alike questioning unnecessary flair at the start of the innings. The latter propensity has seen his World Cup campaign get off to a shaky start, but a substantial innings against an admittedly inferior bowling attack will inspire more for the business end of the tournament. Cusack, meanwhile, bowls the type of medium pace that can get the better of the left-handed opener. The Manuka Oval won’t likely see the ball stop on the batsmen, but nifty changes in pace – and other variations – will be vital for Cusack and company.
William Porterfield v Dale Steyn
Porterfield is a veritable county cricket veteran, well acquainted with facing bowlers of Steyn’s pedigree in first-class fixtures far more competitive than those found among the International Cricket Council’s Associate nations. He will require every inch of this experience and insight against arguably the finest exponent of swing, seam and pace on show at the World Cup. Steyn has had a relatively quiet start in Australasia and, in truth, would probably have been rested against the Irish otherwise – but Tuesday’s showdown in Canberra is the ideal platform for him to lock and load for the remainder of the tourney.
George Dockrell v David Miller
The left-arm spinner is Ireland’s leading wicket-taker in this World Cup so far – and was almost solely responsible for the telling dismissal of the dangerous Gayle in an upset win over the Windies two weeks ago. Turning the ball into the left-handed Miller will bring a similar challenge. Dockrell will do well not to try too many tricks, which inexperienced slow bowlers tend to do if under pressure. ‘You’ve got to stick to your best ball and how you go about things. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or change how you play really against one player,’ said Porterfield – and the captain’s sage advice must be heeded by Dockrell.