Nagpur, March 12: The air in the subcontinent is tense with anticipation as the two arguably strongest teams in the World Cup 2011's Group B prepare for battle - India and South Africa. The team from the Rainbow Nation must be smarting from its defeat to England on Sunday and will be yearning to get back to its winning ways, while India will be looking to carry the impetus of wins against minnow teams Ireland and Netherlands, into Saturday's match.
But what do the history books say about these two sides in World Cups? South Africa has a win percentage of 62.5 per cent in the global event, winning 25 of their 40 encounters, while India's victory rate is considerably lower at 56.14 %, with 32 wins and 25 losses. Oddly enough, these two sides have crossed paths just once on the biggest stage, that being during the 1999 edition.
It was a cloudy, windy day at Hove, England when India and South Africa faced off on the fateful day of May 15. India won the toss and chose to bat with Sachin Tendulkar opening alongside Sourav Ganguly. While South African pace spearhead Lance Klusner did the damage at the top of the Indian order, removing the Little Master for 28 and Rahul Dravid for 54, Ganguly dug in his heels to make a rather slow-paced 97 (coming of 142 balls). Then small cameos from captain Mohammad Azharuddin (24) and Ajay Jadeja (16) took India to a challenging total of 253/5 in 50 overs. Klusener finished with figures of 3/66 off his 10 overs.
In reply, paceman Javagal Srinath gave India the perfect start, bowling Gary Kirtsen for 3 and then trapping Herschelle Gibbs in front for 7 as the Proteas slipped to 22/2 in 6.5 overs. But then came a strong South African riposte with Jacques Kallis (96) playing sheet anchor and building partnerships with Mark Bouncher (34), Daryl Cullinan (19), Hansir Cronje (27), Jonty Rhodes (39), before a flourish from Klusener finished off the match in the Proteas' favour.
India will be looking to return the favour of that 12-year-old defeat when they take the field in more familiar territory on Saturday afternoon, March 12, 2011. Hopefully, the home-side can do it...