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ICC Champions Trophy
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September 24, 2002
1840 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

Pool B:
Ind | Eng | Zim

Pool C:
Ken | SA | WI

Pool D:
Ned | Pak | SL

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Proteas wary of India's batting

Faisal Shariff in Colombo

In a repeat of the last ICC knock-out tournament semi-final, two years ago in Nairobi, Kenya, India and South Africa face-off for a place in the final of the Champions Trophy on Wednesday.

Since that semi-final, which India won convincingly by 95 runs, the two teams have met five times, with India winning two of those encounters. Interestingly, in both the matches, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh wove crucial partnerships -- 82 runs in the semi-finals at Nairobi, and 90 in South Africa last year.

As Colombo geared up for the crucial tie under lights, the ICC distributed a media statement celebrating the bumper crowds it expects for the last three matches of the tournament. Indeed, the mood in Colombo is one of jubilation as every cricket pundit -- be it the rickshaw driver or the manager of a restaurant -- expects an India-Sri Lanka final.

The threat of India's batting might is the only reason for worry in the South African camp. Sachin Tendulkar sounded off the first warning on Monday evening when he told, "We are prepared for them. It will be a tough game and South Africa knows that it will be a very close match. We are playing good cricket. Both the teams will be on their toes.

"It is hard to predict which bowler will be toughest to face. No one expected that we would score 270 inside 40 overs [in the match against England on Sunday]. The English bowlers struggled after bowling a decent initial spell because Viru [Virender Sehwag] and [Sourav] Ganguly played some real big shots. I can assure you that it will be tight game. We are playing well and fielding very well."

He added: "All our batsmen like to play shots and that could be dangerous for the opposition, because out of seven, even if three guys get runs then we can set a decent total to chase."

True. Though India has won only two of the last 10 day-night encounters against South Africa, the current form that the Indian batsmen are in will surely force the Africans to rethink their game plan.

Allan Donald, who is plagued by a sore ankle, informed that the South African bowlers had made notes on the Indian batsmen and watched their video clips over the past two days.

"We need to measure the Indian batting line-up. The Indians in the subcontinent are quite devastating. You just have to keep running in and mix up your stuff with variations of pace," said the veteran fast bowler.

Underplaying the Sehwag threat, Donald said, "He is striking the ball sweetly, but we will look to knock him off quickly. All our skills will come into play. We will force them to hit through the line of the ball, vary the pace and reverse swing the old ball."

Donald was the most successful bowler in the Nairobi semi-final, bowling his ten overs for 34 runs and picking two wickets.

Tendulkar observed that all the South African bowlers are threatening.

"It all depends on the given day when a bowler gets his rhythm right and bowls well. If the batsmen don't allow the bowlers to settle down then they will struggle with their line.

"Donald, Kallis and Pollock are all good bowlers. Donald and Pollock are very experienced; Kallis has done a very good job as the third fast bowler in the side. I personally feel that it is a matter of who will take the initiative and starts attacking."

Skipper Sourav Ganguly was more cautious, saying Pollock moves the ball effectively while the danger of the crafty Donald is forever lurking.

"He is always a threat because his bowling is not only pace. We will have to look closely at him."

Ganguly will be using a lighter bat for the match against South Africa. The Indian skipper said the South Africans bowled a lot of deliveries in the rib-cage areas and he would need to pull and cut to negotiate that game plan.

Both the captains agreed that the toss would not matter, though Ganguly stated that he would like to bat first if the coin falls in his favour.

As Donald, Allan Dawson and Nicky Boje are on the injury list, the South Africans have flown down fast bowler Steve Elworthy and spin all-rounder Robin Peterson.

Dawson pulled a calf muscle while Boje suffered a hairline fracture on his finger while fielding, off his own bowling, in the opening match against the West Indies.

Protean skipper Shaun Pollock defended accusations that his team's batting is fragile in the absence of opener Gary Kirsten and middle-order bat Neil McKenzie.

"We have picked the most in-form personnel for this tournament and though Gary has done very well for South Africa he is not in good form. Greame Smith is good and promising with enough experience."

Talking about the poor form of Lance Klusener, Pollock said Klusener is a class player and had won a lot of games off his bat.

"After a brief lull he is confident about his game and I am hoping we don't need him to bat for us. We should, hopefully, win the game before his turn to bat comes. If he comes at the death he will finish the game for us well. Ask any bowler if he would want to bowl at Klusener in the last five overs of the game."

Jonty Rhodes was cautious. He pointed out that after winning away from home the confidence level of the Indian team is high, which is a dangerous sign. He said recovering from 80 for 5 against Zimbabwe to win the game was truly great and threatening.

Ganguly admitted that he should have bowled more in the game against England to fill the fifth bowler's slot that cost the Indians 66 runs in the 11 overs bowled. South African skipper Pollock hinted he would like to exploit that chink in the Indian armoury.

Though India enjoy only a 33 per cent success rate against the South Africans in the abridged version of the game, tomorrow's face-off between the two sides will decide which is better -- India's batting or South Africa's bowling.

Match Officials for the semi-finals

India - South Africa
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle
On Field Umpires: David Shepherd and Russell Tiffin
TV Umpire: Daryl Harper
Fourth Umpire: Asoka de Silva

Sri Lanka - Australia
Match Referee: Wasim Raja
On Field Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Dave Orchard
TV Umpire: Rudi Koertzen
Fourth Umpire: Srinivas Venkataraghavan


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