WI looks to seal knockout berth

WI sits on top of Group 1 with four points and a victory against South Africa in Nagpur would see it become the second team to qualify for the last four, after New Zealand. South Africa desperately needs a victory after picking up one win from two games.

West Indies captain Darren Sammy along with team-mates during the practice session in Nagpur on Thursday.   -  K_R_DEEPAK

They are proven match-winners across formats. More so in the shortest. When they combine in the gold and red jersey for their Indian Premier League franchise, they are as lethal combination as any of the successful tag-team combination in a wrestling ring.

Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers have changed the course of a limited overs game in a matter of minutes quite frequently for their franchise. On Friday, when they embark on a brief journey from the hotel to the stadium in Jamtha, their camaraderie would be replaced with a feeling of ‘frenemity’.

Stage set for de Villiers-Gayle battle

In all likelihood, the outcome of the World T20 clash between West Indies and South Africa will depend on the performances of Gayle and de Villiers.

Both the men have done well against each other’s team in different formats of the game. Two of Gayle’s top four scores in Twenty20 Internationals are against South Africa, including the memorable 117 in the opening game of the inaugural World T20 in South Africa nine years ago.

While de Villiers’ hasn’t really dazzled against the Caribbeans in the shortest format, three of his highest scores in ODIs have come against West Indies. Two of those were not only scored last year but came at a ridiculous strike rate of 245.45 and 338.63.

Naturally, the Proteas would be banking on de Villiers to set the T20 record straight and keep his side’s hopes of making it to the knockouts.

Pressure on SA

Based on the first week of the Super 10 stage, it appears that de Villiers will have a stiffer task than Gayle. While the West Indies bowlers have combined well to restrict England and Sri Lanka for moderate totals, their South African counterparts sprayed the ball around on a flat bed at the Wankhede Stadium last week.

Besides the backing of his bowling attack, Gayle enjoys a little more leeway than de Villiers considering that his team is topping the group at halfway stage. Even though captain Darren Sammy stressed that they would be desperate to seal a place in the semifinals with a victory on Friday, the Caribbeans can take heart from the fact that they still have to face Afghanistan, the only associate nation that has made it to the group stage.

While West Indies appears to have a settled team, South Africa will have sort out their playing XI after Jean-Paul Duminy was ruled out with a hamstring strain.

Will Gayle exploit it? Or will de Villiers cover it with a typical cameo? Over to Jamtha!

The teams (from)

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

West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Andre Fletcher, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Jerome Taylor.

Head to Head

Overall : Played 9, South Africa 6, West Indies 3

World T20: Played 2, South Africa 2, West Indies 0

Pitch and Weather:

Dry. That’s how the wicket is expected to be; so is the weather. But more than the dryness, the rising temperatures, even in the night, will test players’ fitness.