Ahead of the celebrated clash at the Centurion, one feels inclined to rate the chances of sub-continental teams pretty good in this Champions Trophy. This is because one of the two venues, Centurion, still has a very dry surface and is affording undue turn to spinners. All this talk of South African pitches being fast bowlers' haven at the start of the season isn't quite true except at the Wanderers.
Thus we witnessed both South Africa and Sri Lanka field two spinners each in the opener. Pakistan would surely do the same on Saturday and India would be tempted too, given the early form of Amit Mishra in a warm-up game. However, it's easier said than done for the Indians.
India's bowling combination doesn't afford them this luxury. They invariably go with four bowlers in a match and two spinners would leave them with just two frontline fast bowlers. It's a dangerous option, for powerplays alone account for 20 of the 50 overs. It's here where Indians miss a bowling all-rounder, somebody like Irfan Pathan who can send down a few quality overs with the new ball. He could have been useful but there's no point in rueing his absence. Or for that matter Yuvraj Singh who has been pretty handy with his left-arm spinners and gives his captain a useful option.
Yuvraj's absence is a huge blow as he is a world-class match-winning option. He allows the scoring to jump in spurts and is the ideal partner for his skipper to shepherd the innings from the other end. Now, Dhoni might have to assume that role of aggression.
Or would it be Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan shoring up the lower half? The choice of options would be interesting. It's difficult for fans at this stage to look beyond Saturday’s match. Pakistan are the reigning Twenty20 world champions and ambition is running high in their ranks.
They want to do an encore and break the jinx which invariably is their fate in an ICC clash against India. Skipper Younis Khan is back in the fray and so could be Mohammad Asif after serving a ban of over 14 months.
Elsewhere, South Africa are again back on track, while Sri Lanka have hit the ground running.