Lower order gives SA the needed fillip

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Thursday, October 12, 2000, 18:45 [IST]
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Rajkot: After an astonishing victory over the current World Champions Australia in the ongoing ICC (International Cricket Council) Knock Out tournament in Nairobi, India look as a formidable side as one can hope to be.

As India are all set to take on the defending champion of the ICC Trophy, South Africa, in the second semi-final on Friday, critics are tightlipped about the result of this match.

The contest, which has already promised to be a cliffhanger, is very likely to be decided on the basis of performances of lower order or tail-enders of both the teams.

In this aspect, South Africa are better equipped. India have performed exceedingly well in the two outings so far, but the problem with the Indian team is that they hardly have a convincing tail. India was indeed going great guns in their match against Australia when Yuvraj Singh and Robin Singh were at the crease.

But once Robin was dismissed, even Yuvraj, who was playing only his second One-day match and was at the crease for the first time, knew that he hardly could expect anything from Kumble, Prasad and Zaheer Khan.

He had to hurry and lost his cool and concentration and consequently lost his wicket at a time when nothing short of century could have stopped him.

Actually the lower order or the tail of the Indian line up begins from Vijay Dahiya himself who comes at the fall of fifth wicket. This means the last five batsmen are almost of no hope for India.

Dahiya has batted well in the domestic cricket, but it is too much to expect him to perform creditably in the demanding and critical situation and against tough opposition like South Africa when he is new to the international scenario.

Agarkar and Kumble can bat and both have a good record at the domestic level, but both lack consistency when it comes to international matches.

Prasad is a genuine tail-ender and rides his willow on the luck and sometimes makes good contact as he did in the last match when he had a six to his name. Zaheer Khan has the capacity to score a few useful runs, but he too is inexperienced to cope with the pressure.

This is a real advantage for South Africa. After six specialist batsmen, they still have quality players like Lance Klusener, Niky Boje, Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher, the wicket-keeper.

This fearsome foursome are capable of changing the very complexion of the game in any given condition. Klusener needs no introduction. He is a real match-winner and the greatest hope for the team.

On a number of occasions, he has carried the battle alone with success. He is the most feared cricketer around and India know that fact well. Boje is a specialist spinner of the team but his efforts with the willow cannot be dismissed easily.

In fact, he has had showed tremendous grit and guts while batting under pressure both in Tests as well as in One-dayers. The South Africans are capable of good and quick partnership later in the innings when Boje is around.

Pollock too is a useful batsman. In the last few matches, he might not have clicked successfully as a batsman, but he has shown at times that when the top order failed, he was there to take charge.

His highest score of 75 in One-day Internationals shows his class and capacity. Finally, Mark Boucher. He has already done wonders for the team while standing behind the stumps and also displayed immense batting talent. In fact for a quite sometime, he was sent at No 3 in the role of a pinch hitter, the role that he played to a nicety.

Though South Africa have an upper hand in this aspect, their rivals India are no jugglers. No other team in the world has produced the kind of magic India reproduces in crucial matches. One can expect that in Friday's match too.

This is just an expectation and not the reality. But in the game of cricket, the line between expectation and reality is always very thin.

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