Proteas set to experiment against Dutch
Mohali (Punjab): Another one of the World Cup mismatches will unfold on Thursday when world number two South Africa square off against lackluster minnows the Netherlands in a Group B match here.
Graeme Smith`s Proteas will be playing only their second World Cup match after thrashing West Indies in their lung-opener.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, have already lost two games — one after giving a spirited fight to England and the other after meekly surrendering to the West Indies.
Given the huge gap in talent and experience between the two sides, the South Africans would be looking to experiment with their line-up.
The Proteas have the luxury to leave out one of the three spinners — Imran Tahir, Johan Botha or Robin Peterson — who wrecked havoc against the West Indies and have a look at their pace options.
In the Proteas` seven-wicket win over the West Indies, Pakistan-born leg-spinner Tahir took four wickets for 41 and off-break bowler Johan Botha claimed two for 48 and though left-arm orthodox Peterson went wicket-less, he made significant impact.
But going into tomorrow`s game, Proteas are likely to bring in the third pacer in Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has taken 36 wickets in 19 One-day Internationals at an impressive strike-rate of 26.2, to assist Steyn and Morne Morkel here at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
The pitch in Mohali, known for offering more bounce than most of the Indian wickets, would favour pacers. To add to their advantage, this is going to be a day match that will enable the South African pacers to exploit the early morning conditions well.
"There would be morning coolness so whosoever bowls first would have an advantage for the first 10 to 12 overs," said PCA curator Daljeet Singh.
In fact, Daljeet insisted that the wicket has been prepared in such a way that it would generate good pace and bounce throughout the match.
"It is the end of the seasons, so we had to make sure that it didn`t keep low and slow. That`s why we left some grass on the wicket. It will have some good pace and bounce," he said.
With a seven-day break between the two games that helped them address their injury concerns to key players in Steyn, Tahir and JP Duminy, the Proteas are set to field their best XI in the tomorrow`s match with each one of them fresh and fit for the selection.
"There`s nice competition going on because with everyone being fit for selection, we`re all competing for positions.
When everyone is fit and there`s so much time, everyone has a point to prove in practice sessions. It makes the coach and selection panel`s job a bit difficult, but that`s good," said Steyn.
For the Netherlands, it would take a massive effort to register a win especially after their dismal show against the Caribbean side in New Delhi, where they lost by 215 runs after failing to make a mark in any department of the game.
"Inconsistency is very frustrating. We certainly have more potential than what we showed against them (West Indies).
Now we`ve got to forget this performance and look forward to the upcoming games," said Dutch captain Peter Borren.
The `Oranje brigade`, which has been struggling with poor bowling from the very first game of the tournament, failed with even the bat against the Windies.
They were bundled out for a mere 115 runs with the hero of the opening match — centurion Ryan ten Doeschate — also not being able to put up a good show.
Nevertheless, the team will heavily bank on the South Africa-born Ten Doeschate, who is expected to leave behind the last game`s disappointment and come good with both the bat and ball again.
Tom Cooper, who scored 47 in the first match and fought a lone battle against West Indies to remain unbeaten on 55 in the next, is also a crucial cog in the Dutch scheme of things.
"South Africa is probably one of the favourite teams here and one of the strongest as well. It`s a massive mismatch," said Ten Doeschate.
Even the statistics are against the Dutch, who lost to South Africa in the two previous encounters, both at the World Cup — a 160-run defeat in 1996 and a 221-run loss in 2007.
But with the Netherlands having the reputation of springing surprises, and cricket being an unpredictable game, anything out of script in this battle of two most mismatched sides in world cricket would make it an extremely interesting encounter.