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India gear up for tough South African challenge

cricket Updated: Mar 11, 2011 13:44 IST
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A jittery India will have to find the right combination and plug their loopholes as they go into the tough World Cup Group-B encounter against South Africa in Nagpur on Saturday with the dodgy form of some of their key players being a concern.

After a couple of not-so-convincing performances against Ireland and the Netherlands respectively, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's much vaunted batting line-up is expected to regroup as they face the mighty South Africans, who on the other hand would be itching to get back to winning ways after losing to England by six runs.

Although India have been unbeaten in the four matches so far, the only time they have been really put to test was against England in Bangalore last month when they could only manage to tie the game after scoring an imposing 338.

Saturday's match will be an important one for India as their batsmen will face the current best new ball pair of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

The explosive opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have got the starts in most of the matches but have failed to capitalise on those. Both have a century each under their belt but would like to get another big one before the knock-out stage gets undwerway.

Tendulkar was not a part of the Indian side that lost the One-day series against the Proteas 2-3 prior to the World Cup.

Interestingly, when Tendulkar last played in an ODI against South Africa in Gwalior last year, he scored the historic double hundred.

If the maestro can achieve half of what he did that day, the South African bowlers would have a hard day on the shirtfront Jamtha strip where batting first is the order of the day.

Sehwag began with a bang against Bangladesh but hasn't exactly been spectacular against other sides. The same is the case with Gautam Gambhir, who has been frittering it away after getting starts.

It will be stern test for the middle order also where Yuvraj Singh with back-to-back 50s has shown some touch. But skipper Dhoni has been scratchy and Yusuf Pathan has blown hot and cold.

The Irish and the Dutch didn't exactly have the score to test the strength of the middle-order, which Graeme Smith's men might just do.