England have everything going against them: form, history, momentum. South Africa, in contrast, have each of those going in their favour.
As the two sides lock horns in their World T20 Super 10 Group 1 encounter at the Wankhede here on Friday, England will have to get over their 3-7 win-loss record against South Africa as well as the horror of watching Chris Gayle dismantle their bowling in their first game if they are to challenge the Proteas.
For, South Africa – who begin their campaign with this game – come into this tournament as one of the favourites. And rightly so.
If Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers provide some serious quality at the top, skipper Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and David Miller can do the finishing job in the middle with aplomb. If young pacer Kagiso Rabada brings in the youthful exuberance, his senior pro Dale Steyn complements with the fear factor. Add to that Imran Tahir’s leggies, and you have a complete, well-oiled, all-round, in-form side that can do well irrespective of the conditions and opposition.
However, if there’s one thing that can go against them, it’s the dreaded favourites tag. And the Proteas might be wary of that, especially after watching their co-favourites India go down tamely in their opener against New Zealand.
“It just shows that anyone can be beaten on the day,” du Plessis said on Thursday. “You can never ever disrespect any other team, no matter how small that might look. We, or rather I, certainly learnt it the hard way in 2011 World Cup. New Zealand looked like the minnows, they didn’t play their best cricket and they smashed us in the quarterfinals (by 49 runs). So, I learnt that day that never again can you look at a team that way.”
Not certainly England, who didn’t play much bad cricket in their six-wicket defeat against the West Indies here on Wednesday, if one were to put Gayle’s maniac innings aside. They posted a competitive 182 – 20 runs short, by their own admission – and managed to keep most of the Windies batsmen in check apart from Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
Their inexperienced pace bowling attack will be severely put under the pump again by AB & Co., and how they respond would probably decide the fate of the match. Make no mistake, another loss would virtually rule the Englishmen out of the mega event. And who knows, that might just get the best out of them.