While India will be looking to make a big statement in their opener, the Proteas are under immense to open their account after falling to defeats against hosts England and then Bangladesh.
The clash between two formidable ODI outfits will involve several sub-plots with plenty of star quality on both sides. Here, we take a look at three such key individual battles which could have a decisive impact on the final result.
TAHIR VS DHONI
Two veterans who know each other all too well will go head-to-head with MS Dhoni squaring up against Imran Tahir. Both players are on the last legs of their international careers and will be looking to make a big splash in their final World Cup campaigns.
They have played together for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL for two years running now and as such, will know what to expect from the other when they face up on Tuesday.
While Dhoni is key to India’s middle-order, Tahir is South Africa’s primary wicket-taking threat apart from Kagiso Rabada. Dhoni will be in confident mood after an excellent IPL campaign and comes into the clash on the back of a superb ton against Bangladesh in the warm-up game.
Tahir, on the other hand, also had a brilliant IPL and the leg-spinner has looked the best South African bowler on show in the World Cup so far with four wickets in two games.
Can wily old Tahir bamboozle his CSK skipper or will the India veteran have the last laugh?
BUMRAH VS DE KOCK
The second key battle also involves two IPL team-mates going head-to-head with the Mumbai Indians’ duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Quinton de Kock set to play big roles for their respective sides on Wednesday.
Bumrah has been standout white-ball pacer over the last two years and is deservedly ranked No1 in the ODI format. De Kock, meanwhile, is one of the most destructive openers in limited-overs cricket when on song.
Both the players were excellent in Mumbai’s record fourth IPL title triumph recently and will not be lacking in sharpness and form when they come face to face with each other at Southampton.
Bumrah will be tasked with getting early wickets for India with the new-ball and he will need to get the better of the Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman to achieve that. If De Kock can negate Bumrah and get South Africa off to a good start, it will be half the battle won for the Proteas.
KOHLI VS RABADA
The biggest battle of them all on Wednesday will undoubtedly be the one between India skipper Virat Kohli and South Africa pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada. It is a contest that has assumed greater significance following Rabada’s disparaging comments about Kohli’s on-field behavior in the IPL.
“Maybe he (Kohli) does it because it gets him going, but that comes across as very immature for me. He is a phenomenal player but he can’t take the abuse.” Rabada had stated recently.
Both Rabada and Kohli have been no strangers to on-field confrontations and the former’s latest comments will only add fuel to the fire in their upcoming battle. They are also one of the best in the business at what they do, be it registering tons at will in the case of Kohli or running through opposition batting units like butter in the case of Rabada.
Who ever wins this duel could very well win the match for his respective team.
The Men in Blue suffered a heavy defeat against rivals Pakistan in the finals, succumbing to just 158 runs while chasing a total of 338. On Wednesday, they will play their first ODI in an ICC tournament ever since, as they take on a struggling South African side.
Kohli believes that the team is now in better shape to tackle the opposition in England.
“The lessons from the Champions Trophy – is to play the cricket we know how to play. In the final, the better side won. We have plugged the gaps. We brought in wrist spinners to take wickets in the middle overs. We are a stronger side than Champions Trophy side.”
“The first week has been a gradual progress. A couple of lopsided games, a couple of one-sided games. There is a lot to learn about composure. The teams that are more composed have better chances of winning games, have better chances of handling pressure,” the Indian skipper told reporters ahead of their first game in the tournament.
The 30-year-old claimed that the team that can handle pressure better will eventually claim the highly coveted trophy.
“We need to bring our experience into play to make better decisions tomorrow. The team that can handle pressure better will win the tournament.”
Virat Kohli has pledged to treat Kagiso Rabada with respect after the South African bowler branded him “immature”.
India launch their World Cup bid by facing beleaguered South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday, with Rabada’s combative words ringing in opposition captain Kohli’s ears.
Rabada criticised Kohli as childish in a recent Indian Premier League on-field spat – but India’s talisman captain refused to bite back, instead pledging to discuss the matter with the Proteas paceman personally.
Kohli’s move to treat Rabada’s aggression with kindness entirely deflated any tactic to unsettle the superstar batsman, with the 30-year-old India skipper unflappable ahead of Wednesday’s tournament bow.
“Well I’ve played against Kagiso many times, and if anything needs to be discussed we can discuss it man to man,” said Kohli.
“Whether Ngidi plays or Steyn plays or not, Rabada is always going to be a world-class bowler and a threat to any side he plays against. On his day he can go through any team.
“In the past we have been able to handle it, but that’s only because we’ve been respectful of his skills but also assured of our batting.
“You have to be respectful but have that self-belief in yourself as well. And that balance will be very crucial. We always need to respect that and find ways of scoring against him.”
India will doubtless be eyeing the title despite England entering the tournament as favourites.
Kohli admitted India could stand to benefit from their delayed start to the competition, as they watched and learned from the opening tranche of matches.
He insisted India will be in no mood to chase the game, instead backing the strength of their line-up.
“There’s a lot to learn in terms of composure,” said Kohli. The teams that have been more composed have been winning games. The teams that have been forcing it or making bad decisions have suffered.
“That’s the kind of pressure the World Cup brings. As a batting group it will be very important to understand which guy is on a roll and the other guy has to play second fiddle.
“You need to be able to rotate strike and play in a partnership. If you try to accelerate too much teams are losing four or five wickets in a bunch.
“The teams that play more solid, percentage cricket will tend to succeed.”
India’s skipper remained composed and assured as he insisted he can shoulder the burden of expectation to blast big scores every time he walks to the crease.
“If you perform for a long time then expectation is always there,” said Kohli.
“I’ve understood how to go along with the expectation. You have to accept the expectation is going to be there.
“When you walk down to bat people are going to say ‘We need a hundred’ and things like that.
“Accepting that is just part of the process for me now. It’s a long tournament, you’re playing every side once. You have to think on your feet and adapt quickly.
“You have to be precise, think on your feet, make good decisions and stay ahead of the eight ball. From that point of view, it’s a big challenge.”
Provided by Press Association Sports