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ICC Champions Trophy: Pressure on India in game vs South Africa, says Graeme Smith

India will take on South Africa in what will be a virtual quarter-final clash with the winner progressing to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 semi-finals.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 10, 2017 16:55 IST
Graeme Smith
India take on South Africa in their last ICC Champions Trophy Group B match at The Oval in London on Sunday.
India take on South Africa in their last ICC Champions Trophy Group B match at The Oval in London on Sunday.(AP)

Although the equation for South Africa remains a simple one, Sri Lanka’s stunning display to chase down India yesterday has gone some way to transferring the pressure back on to India ahead of Sunday’s game.

South Africa vs India and Sri Lanka vs Pakistan are essentially quarter-finals now, and South Africa will be desperate to show that it is capable of showing its quality at a big tournament.

The way that India dealt with Pakistan in its first game, indicated that it is in quite some form, but the loss to Sri Lanka will have rocked it. Critics will likely say, with the benefit of hindsight, that its approach was potentially too measured given the strong positions it managed to get itself in throughout its batting innings.

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Sri Lanka batted superbly, however, and have levelled the group out ahead of Sunday’s game, with both India and South Africa having lost games that they might have been expected to win. It’s a truly exciting contest, to be played on what should be another batsmen friendly surface at The Oval.

South Africa will know that it will have to bat better, as individuals and as a unit, than it did against Pakistan. As a squad, they really do cover all bases and will be keen to show that that squad depth can translate to winning key games such as this. As the number-one ranked side in the world, you have to be at the best, and India will prove to be tough opposition with the talent it has.

One area where I feel India has improved out of sight, certainly since my playing days, is in its seam bowling. It came unstuck against Sri Lanka on Thursday, but in general, its key seamers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah have come in to this tournament full of confidence.

So, often we’ve seen India rely on its seemingly endless flock of quality spinners, but we’re now seeing its seam options keeping someone with the quality that Ravichandran Ashwin possesses being left out in their favour. I’ve been really impressed with their form both during the tournament and in the build up, and it’ll be interesting to see what their plans are against South Africa.

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In Ravindra Jadeja, India has a truly three-dimensional cricketer who has won his side a lot of games of cricket in recent years. How batters go about playing him is so dependent on the surface, and given how well Sri Lanka played him today on a great wicket at The Oval. I hope to see South Africa’s many good players of spin be positive against him in particular.

Many of the South Africa squad players have experience in competitions like the IPL, and they’ll be confident in their ability to dominate against quality spin. Players like Faf du Plessis and David Miller are excellent at using their feet, but it’ll come down to their execution on Sunday, which has to be better than in the game against Pakistan if South Africa are to win and progress further.

In general, the batting needs to find momentum. The beauty of, and certainly a difficulty with this tournament’s format is that as a team you cannot afford an off day as South Africa had on Wednesday.

Both Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell will be hoping for better days with the ball. Neither seem to have quite clicked as of yet, or been able to execute their plans as they’d of liked.

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There’s been much made of the fact that these balls don’t seem to be swinging, which is unusual for England given the cloud cover we’ve had! That undoubtedly counts against a bowler like Parnell, who is at his most effective when there is movement on offer.

I do believe, however, that he can do more to give himself the best chance of being successful. It’ll be a worry that he’s not looked as though he’s able to hit his mark at the moment, and appears to be bowling with too much width – something the Indian batsmen will feast on if he can’t tighten up his lines on Sunday.

AB has a far more difficult job if he can’t build pressure and settle in to his bowlers bowling to their fields consistently, but as I mentioned in the wake of the defeat to Pakistan, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir have been two beacons for South Africa so far with the ball.

It should be another great atmosphere as it was at Edgbaston, and my only hope is that South Africa play their best cricket. If they can do that, they’ve got every chance of taking that next step in the tournament.