There's a sombre atmosphere around the South African camp on the eve of their game against India. When it rains it pours, as the saying goes. Dale Steyn being ruled out has forced them to reconsider their plans for the World Cup as skipper Faf du Plessis admitted. Lungi Ngidi, too, is out for at least ten days. That means that one of the few teams hinging on a bowling-first plan in the World Cup will now turn to its all-rounders to cover up the gaps.
Du Plessis is no stranger to adversity as a skipper but even for him, this first World Cup assignment as a leader has started off like a beginner's guide to Murphy's law. It must help South Africa that they have a man as capable as du Plessis leading the side, and putting up a brave face. They're still docked with two games done, and are attempting to set sail at a place infamous for its Titanic connection. Woe be him, you'd think, but du Plessis is already on top of that.
Foremost amongst du Plessis' work, he's said, is to keep the morale up. "At no stage in the game can we as a senior player group look like we are down-and-out. It is not an option for us. We are a very, very proud cricketing nation. So, no matter how bad it gets, how good it gets, I will keep driving that," said du Plessis in the pre-match press conference. Staying strong was the word repeatedly mentioned right through.
On the other side of the coin is Virat Kohli, also readying to lead for the first time in a World Cup. Incidentally, it was for Virat Kohli's team that Steyn played in the IPL and injured himself, and forcing du Plessis to ponder that what-if on Tuesday. Kohli began with a sigh of relief that India were finally getting into the matches, as he addressed the press. Compared to what du Plessis has on his plate, Kohli's problems are near empty. But if there are lessons to learn from his counterpart, it would be about the importance of starting a tournament like the World Cup on a positive note.
When: June 5, 2019 at 10:30 AM Local Time, 15:00 IST
Where: The Ageas Bowl, Southampton
What to expect: Conditions are chilly and the morning start could mean that there'll be something for the pacers early on. Rain is forecast on the match day, so you could expect a few stoppages.
Will it be Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohammed Shami as India's second pacer? That's the million dollar question ahead of the game. The No. 4 question, meanwhile, has been put to rest by KL Rahul hundred in the warm-up and Kedar Jadhav's return to full fitness. Bhuvneshwar could have an edge going into this game if India prefer two wrist spinners against South Africa, against whom they've had success before.
Hashim Amla, declared fit, is set to replace David Miller while Dwayne Pretorius is the best option available to replace Ngidi, from South Africa's previous game and becoming the third all-rounder in the eleven.
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Dwayne Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir