Neil McKenzie looks forward to ‘a really good clash’

India, the defending champion, and South Africa, the No. 1 ranked One-Day International team, will play each other in a virtual quarterfinal in the Champions Trophy on Sunday.

Ravichandran Ashwin may be back in the mix after being dropped in the first two games.   -  THE HINDU

Despite the shock defeat to Pakistan, South Africa is a confident side ahead of Sunday's meeting with India at the Oval.

“You don't just become an average side over one performance,” Neil McKenzie, the team's batting coach, said here on Friday. “If you look at how we've played over the last 18 months, we've got the No.1 ranking for a reason. We definitely fancy our chances in any competition."

The Group B Champions Trophy fixture is effectively a quarterfinal, and defeat will inevitably see South Africa labelled – if unfairly – chokers again. An Indian loss, however, will not be seen in that light. McKenzie was unhappy with the suggestion. “You say if India go out, it's the current holders. If South Africa go out, [it should be said that] the world's No.1 side [went out]. We have been playing some consistent cricket over the last few years. Both camps will be feeling that they didn't take advantage of the situation they were in. Both sides are under pressure. So it's about who deals with the pressure better. The big thing is, there are a lot of players who have played together and against each other through the IPLs and different competitions. It’s going to be a really good clash.”

‘Tough going for openers’

The loss to Sri Lanka would play on Indian minds in terms of the batting approach, McKenzie felt. “If you look at all the matches in the tournament so far, it's been tough going for the openers,” he said. “The fluency isn't there. Both sides have got some serious players up front. They adapt to conditions and the conditions suggest that you're a little cautious up front and save wickets for the middle and the back end. India have posted over two over-300 scores, one win and one loss. So that will probably play on their mind a little bit in terms of the 320 that Sri Lanka chased down.”

The former South Africa batsman, who played 58 Test matches, believed his side's left-handers would not be overly worried about R. Ashwin, should India field him. McKenzie admitted that the off-spinner had a good record against South Africa, doing particularly well in the 2015 Test series. “But South Africa will take a lot of confidence out of winning the ODI series there,” he said. “I’m sure Ashwin against the left-handers would be the preferred choice. But you have quality at both ends. It's just who performs well on the day.”

Meanwhile, Graeme Smith paid the South African camp a visit, spending a half hour watching the team train in the indoor nets at Lord's. The former captain was seen chatting with head coach Russell Domingo and members of the support staff. “He's always got opinions and some help and assistance,” said McKenzie. “He was captain of South Africa and a great captain of South Africa for a really long time. So we value his input. If he sees something that he can help with, he will jump in.”

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