KOLKATA, March 14: South Africa will be wary of Ireland’s fighting spirit when they seek to nail down a World Cup quarter-final place here at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
Ireland have been the most impressive of the non-Test nations, pulling off a shock win over England and testing favorites India and the West Indies before losing.
South Africa, with six points from four games, will be assured of a place in the last eight with a victory while Ireland, with two points from four matches, only have a slim chance of qualifying.
The momentum is currently with South Africa who bounced back strongly to defeat India by three wickets in a tense finish in Nagpur on Saturday after losing a close match to England.“Saturday’s win is a massive step forward in the self-belief department for us and we can play with a bit more freedom,” South Africa captain Graeme Smith wrote in his column in an Indian newspaper on Monday.
“That doesn’t mean we think we can just walk in and knock Ireland over on Tuesday. Many of the guys in Ireland have played county cricket. As a team they have got good cricket sense, can be dangerous and have to be taken seriously.”
South Africa have shown they have depth in both bowling and batting. Their spinners, Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson and Johan Botha, were superbly backed by pacemen Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in previous games.
South Africa’s batting looked solid against India, especially after Jacques Kallis’s return to form with a 69 in Nagpur after contributing just 21 in the first three matches.
However, South Africa have injury worries over their leading run-scorer and wicket-taker at the World Cup.
South Africa coach Corrie Van Zyl confirmed on Monday that batsman A.B. De Villiers had gone for a scan on an injured left thigh muscle, a problem that forced him to use a runner in the victory over India.
“We are just waiting for a full medical report so we will make a decision a little bit later,” Van Zyl said. “I don’t think it’s major in terms of out of the tournament, but I’m not a doctor. I’ll wait for the doctor’s report.”
De Villiers has scored two centuries and a half-century in four innings at the World Cup and is likely to be left out for the game against the Irish as South Africa plan ahead for the knockout stage.
Tahir, who has 11 wickets in three matches, is resting a fractured left thumb that sidelined him during South Africa’s dramatic, last-over win over India.
The Pakistan-born leg-spinner was already expected to sit out Tuesday’s game after he was advised to undergo a 10-day recovery period.
Van Zyl said his starting line-up against Ireland “depends on availability” but insisted South Africa would still be strong in Kolkata as they look to seal their place in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Irish captain William Porterfield said his team would play with their usual attacking flair against South Africa.“We don’t have anything to lose. There won’t be many people giving us much of a chance in tomorrow’s game,” Porterfield said. “South Africa are obviously one of the pre-tournament favourites and they have just beaten India.
“We’ve just got to go out there and play with freedom and attack in the same way that we have attacked in every other game.”
Ireland’s paceman Trent Johnston is set to return from injury for their match against South Africa.
IRELAND: William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Niall O’Brien, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Ed Joyce.
SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk.
PITCH CONDITIONS: Batsmen are likely to dominate the proceedings at the Eden Gardens as the pitch offers even bounce. There will be something in it for the bowlers as the match progresses but they need to keep a tidy line and length.
UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka), Billy Doctrove (West Indies).
TV UMPIRE: Simon Taufel (Australia).
MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).