Eng v SA: All eyes on de Villiers

If recent form is an indication to go by, England will have every reason to fear the worst. The last time de Villiers batted against England, he bludgeoned 71 off 29 at the Wanderers, the ground that the Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis termed similar to the Wankhede.

AB de Villiers will hope to get the Proteas’ campaign off to an ideal start.   -  Vivek Bendre

Barely 48 hours after being blown away by the Gayle storm, England will return to the Wankhede Stadium on Friday evening to take on South Africa in what would virtually be a must-win game for the team. Eoin Morgan’s men will be keeping their fingers crossed hoping that AB de Villiers doesn’t continue his silken touch at a ground reputed for its run feasts, especially in T20.

If recent form is an indication to go by, England will have every reason to fear the worst. The last time de Villiers batted against England, he bludgeoned 71 off 29 at the Wanderers, the ground that the Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis termed similar to the Wankhede.

And, when it comes to playing at the Wankhede, the last two times he batted at the stadium, de Villiers smashed 119 off 61 (against India in an ODI last October) and an unbeaten 133 off 59 (for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Mumbai Indians during the 2015 IPL). If de Villiers, who is likely to open the batting on Friday, completes a hat-trick of marauding knocks at the Wankhede, it will not only put a full stop to England’s campaign but more importantly for him, get the Proteas’ campaign off to an ideal start.





Read: > Fa du Plessis confident of a good show

The South Africans, as they have always done over the last two decades, are entering the World Twenty20 as one of the prime contenders for lifting the trophy on April 3. The team would be keen to get off the blocks in an ideal way rather than playing the catch-up game after getting off to a disastrous start.

England, on the other hand, will be hoping to improve in both the major departments of the game. No doubt that Chris Gayle was at his best on Wednesday night but the England bowlers played into his hands by bowling in his arc time and again.

Read: > Buttler on England's chances

Unlike Gayle, most of the Proteas’ power-hitters, led by de Villiers, can tonk the ball all around the park. It will be interesting to see how the English bowlers respond to the pressure.

The batsmen will also be hoping to take a cue from Gayle’s knock and build a big innings rather than looking over their shoulder after throwing away a good start. Each of the top four England batsmen got a start against West Indies but none of them batted deep into the innings, thus leaving the lower middle-order little time to take the game away from the opposition. If they can avoid a repeat on Friday, they would give themselves every chance of keeping their campaign alive before marching from the commercial capital on to the national capital.

The teams (from):

England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Reece Topley, Liam Plunkett, James Vince, Sam Billings and Liam Dawson.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien and Aaron Phangiso.

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD

Overall

Played: 11, England: 3, South Africa: 7, NR: 1

World Twenty20

Played: 4, England: 1, South Africa: 3

THE LAST MEETING

It was less than a month ago that the two teams ended their bilateral series with a T20 in Johannesburg. England lost its last seven wickets for just 14 runs, but still posted 171 at the Wanderers. AB de Villiers (71 off 29) and Hashim Amla (69 not out off 38) then bulldozed the Engalnd bowlers at the Bull Ring to overhaul the target in just 14.4 overs. The openers added 125 in only 8.2 overs before skipper Faf du Plessis contributed an unbeaten 22 in the nine-wicket win.

PITCH

The strip that will be used on Friday will not be the same as Wednesday night’s but it still seems to have a run feast in store.

WEATHER

It’s likely to be a typical March evening, as sultry as it can get in the Maximum City.

SNIPPET

South Africa is perhaps the only team that has travelled to India with a specialist pace bowling and spin bowling coach. And, so caring are Charl Langeveldt and Claude Henderson towards their wards that even after monitoring their bowlers’ performance from close quarters in the first half of the team’s training, the former South African internationals continued to assist them even during their batting stint. Not with a word of advice but by stationing themselves on the boundary line, fetching balls that were flying into the stands.

Read: > Mumbai ready for another run-feast