Cricket World Cup 2011

Preview: SA vs Ireland

2011-03-15 10:20
One to watch on the pacier Eden Gardens pitch, Dale Steyn. (AFP)

Kolkata - The Proteas are riding high after the win over India, and Ireland will need to down a giant again to keep their Cup hopes alive.

As the tournament heads to its business end, it is fair to say that things have gone to plan. This was supposed to be the tougher of the two groups, and has proved to be so.

South Africa generally play to potential in the league stages of the World Cup, as they have done this time as well. They have mostly been in control, and the almost-mandatory "wobble", to use a substitute for that word, has been put out of the way against England.

Ireland were expected to punch way above their weight as the leading Associate side, and have done exactly that.

Having shocked England, and given a fright to West Indies and India, they would be cursing themselves for the collapse while chasing a gettable target against Bangladesh.

But when they walk out on the hallowed Eden Gardens turf, Ireland will do so knowing this will be their toughest test of the tournament. The other big sides in the group have the tendency to leave an opening here and there for teams to try and claw back, but when South Africa close the door on their opponents, it shuts tight with cold finality.

South Africa will be pleased that a cog of their wheel that had come apart against England, the lower middle-order, stood up well under pressure against India. They wouldn't want it to be on trial against Ireland though, and would want to seal the quarter-final berth with a clinical win.

Venue guide

Kolkata, Eden Gardens

Form guide

Ireland: LLWLW
South Africa: WLWWW

Pitch and conditions

The World Cup finally shows up at Eden Gardens 16 days after it was originally supposed to. As the first of its three games in six days kicks off, India's most famous ground will be on trial after the tardiness that led to the shifting of the India-England tie to Bangalore. But a ground that has hosted a World Cup final and a semi-final deserved much better than three games involving Associates.

The pitch had a tinge of green on the eve of the game, and the curator has promised good bounce and carry. William Porterfield expects it to be "pretty quick". There has apparently not been much dew around in the last few days, but a surprise appearance is not discounted. Especially so, since it is the onset of summer, and while the days have started to get warm, nights can still be cool.

Watch out for...

Dale Steyn brought South Africa back against a rampant India in a controlled display of fast bowling, mixing slower ones with reverse-swinging yorkers.

Graeme Smith looks to his premier fast bowler whenever he wants a crucial breakthrough, and more often than not, Steyn delivers. On a pitch that is expected to aid the seamers, getting past Steyn without much damage would be the first of Ireland's headaches.

Kevin O' Brien showed what he is capable of against England. He has had a couple of quiet games after that record-breaking innings. He will enjoy batting as well as bowling on this surface. Without his spark in the middle order, Ireland lack the big finish when they bat.

Team news

Imran Tahir is still ruled out as part of his rehabilitation from a a fractured thumb, and AB de Villiers is also doubtful, having had a scan on his left thigh which revealed a muscle sprain. Colin Ingram could get a game if de Villiers misses out. Will South Africa go in with a third seamer in Lonwabo Tsotsobe?

South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers/Colin Ingram, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Morne van Wyk (wk), Johan Botha/Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel

Trent Johnston missed out against West Indies with a knee injury he sustained during the India game, but is mostly expected to play, having trained today. Andre Botha is on the doubtful list, down with a stomach bug.

Ireland (likely): William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien (wk), Gary Wilson, Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cusack, John Mooney, Trent Johnston, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin


South Africa have won both their previous ODIs against Ireland, including one during the Super Eights stage of the 2007 World Cup

The last World Cup match at Eden Gardens was India's ill-fated semi-final against Sri Lanka

Six of the 11 decided day-night games at Eden Gardens have been won by the side batting first


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