Mumbai: Bruised and battered by the Chris Gayle mauling, England are faced with a must-win situation as they look ways to contain South Africa in their ICC World Twenty20 match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday.
Shell-shocked by Gayle's record 47-ball century, England are required to win against the Proteas, to whom they lost 0-2 in the tune-up to the tournament, if they are to progress to the semi finals from Group 1.
The 2010 champions' under-fire bowlers and fielders will be up against a strong rival batting line-up comprising the innovative AB de Villiers — holder of the world's fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODIs, big-hitting David Miller and the solidity of captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy.
The key, perhaps, would be how effectively England's spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali can perform after being sent to the cleaners by the big-swinging bat of Gayle who struck successive sixes into the top tiers of the Wankhede stadium off both these slow bowlers.
They were tilted over for 171 as recently as 21 February at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg by the Dale Steyn-less Proteas' bowling attack comprising young tearaway Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir.
South Africa chased the target for the loss of just one wicket with openers de Villiers and Hashim Amla smashing half centuries to help the side complete a 2-0 win.
In the opening game of that series at Cape Town, Tahir bamboozled the England batsmen with a four-wicket haul before South Africa chased down the small total of 134 for the loss of seven wickets.
With Steyn back into the squad after his injury woes, South Africa's bowling attack looks truly formidable, though the track at the Wankhede is a bit different from those back home.
England, for their part, could re-jig their bowling attack a bit and rework on their strategies to stop the South Africans who have, in the past, been saddled with the tag of chokers hung around their neck in ICC events.
Apart from their spinners, England's pace battery was also ripped apart by Gayle and Marlon Samuels who belted sixes off Ben Stokes and David Willey.
If England want to alter their pace combination they have Liam Plunkett, a late replacement for the injured Steve Finn, to call upon to fill in for one of the pacers.
They also have a slow left-arm bowler in Liam Dawson to fill in for Rashid, whose confidence could be a bit down after being mauled by Gayle, as Ali lends more depth to the batting.
But the simple fact is that the England bowlers need to get their act together against South Africa. To be fair, the attack was also handicapped by the ball made wet by the dew on the outfield which made it difficult to grip.
The toss, won by Darren Sammy, proved an important one for West Indies and tomorrow the team winning it could insert the other side in so as to avoid bowling and fielding when the dew fall is heavy.
The one major plus in England's heavy six-wicket defeat to the West Indies was the forthright batting, sans the T20-style slogs, by their premier Test batsman Joe Root, who is ranked second by the ICC presently.
His elegant 48 was the platform on which England posted a competitive score of 182. Had Root continued for a while, they would have crossed the 200-mark.
England can take heart from his approach as well as those of opener Alex Hales, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who made a quick-fire 30 with three soaring sixes, and captain Morgan himself (27 not out in 14 balls).
It's not going to be an easy task for Morgan's side — who have a 3-1 record against the Proteas in past World T20 events, though they do have the personnel to deliver the goods under pressure.
And it's also not an impossible task as was shown recently by Australia, who came back from 0-1 to defeat the Proteas in their backyard 2-1 prior to the start of the World T20.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese.
England: Jason Roy, James Vince, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Sam Billings, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Reece Topley, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Liam Dawson.
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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2016 13:20:09 IST