India tie boost for Proteas?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – South Africa would be silly not to take an optimistic view that the freak tie between India and England in their World Cup group comes as a useful little bonus to them.
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It is, after all, a point dropped by both of the two other most fancied teams in Group B – rather than one of them profiting from both points on offer -- and although there is a long way to go and there are various ways of assessing it, there is arguably a better chance now of the Proteas topping the table.
Certainly they will know that if they manage to knock over both England (Sunday, Chennai) and India (March 12, Nagpur) then finishing at the helm is assured, unless they unexpectedly botch a game against lesser powers the Netherlands (next up for them this Thursday), Ireland or Bangladesh.
The plus for both teams involved in Sunday’s high-scoring thriller in Bangalore, though, was that the point gained probably takes each a step closer to actually ensuring qualification for the quarter-finals, although there could now be some especially spirited jockeying between them for final placements on the table.
And there is enough time yet for some twists and turns in Group B to mean that the point apiece turns into a precious device rather than a curse, and for the South Africans to wish it hadn’t happened.
Also to consider is that, as both groups get closer to completion, there is no guarantee that the teams ending highest-placed will necessarily benefit from “easier” contests they’d be intended to have in the quarters.
With the tournament of such lengthy duration, some highly-touted outfits may struggle at times to maintain a good head of steam and mentally save their best for the all-important knockout phase, regardless of where they have finished in group terms.
But what else might Graeme Smith’s team take some pleasure from after watching events unfold in Bangalore?
Clearly with batting very much the dominant factor – Messrs Tendulkar and then Strauss admirably to the fore – there are some understandable concerns around the bowling attack of both England and India.
The former had also revealed some drawbacks in this department when they allowed the Netherlands – largely thanks to Port Elizabeth-born Ryan ten Doeschate -- to amass 292 for six a few days ago, and on Sunday their ace swing bowler James Anderson suffered a second personal pummelling on the trot.
He had gone for 10-0-72-0 against the Dutch minnows, and Tendulkar and company took him to the cleaners even more ruthlessly, as he went for 91 runs in 9.5 overs.
India, of course, have been hugely tipped to prosper in home conditions at the World Cup, but this result, in failing to come out on top after posting a daunting 338, may send a few shockwaves down their frenzied supporters’ spines.
Certainly Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal was fairly cutting in his post-match analysis: “India were served the starkest possible reminder that whatever they can do with bat can be easily lost in the field ... this question will haunt their batsmen: just how much is safe enough?”
He described the tie as “an epic embarrassment in its own right (to India)” and said it had “swiftly shorn them of their aura, and the tag of favourites”.
Still, the Proteas will probably resist any temptation to be smug, knowing full well that their own bowling – with respect to West Indies’ known limitations these days – has yet to be put to a searching test by a quality batting line-up in benign conditions at the tournament ...