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Wickets at a premium as Proteas face India

Morné Morkel is hoping for a chance to put the brakes on prolific run-scorer Virat Kohli when South Africa face India in their final Champions Trophy group match this weekend.

Sunday’s clash against the titleholders at London’s Oval has taken on added significance for the Proteas after a shock defeat by Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

The one highlight in the field for South Africa was the form of the towering quick bowler Morkel, who took two wickets in four balls on his way to three for 18 in seven overs.

But asked what his plans were for bowling at Indian captain Kohli, who made an unbeaten 81 against Pakistan last weekend, paceman Morkel told reporters: “I was hoping you guys could tell me that.

“Sunday is a big day for us. It’s going to take a big team effort to knock over India. But we have to back ourselves to win.”

Prior to South Africa’s recent series against England, the 32-year-old had not played a one-day international since June 2016, with Proteas coach Russell Domingo worried that his inclusion lengthened the batting tail.

But with wickets likely to be at a premium against India’s powerful top order, Morkel, a veteran of 111 ODIs, may have done enough to retain his place.

“Today we need to write off, just see it as an average game,” he said after the Pakistan defeat. “Hopefully on Sunday we can turn it up and deliver something special.”

South Africa may be top of the International Cricket Council ODI rankings but the standings were turned on their head by eighth-ranked Pakistan, who won for a fourth time in their past five ODIs against the Proteas.

“We haven’t played good cricket and we’ve got to take that on the chin,” said Domingo. “Pakistan played better than us and it had absolutely nothing to do with complacency as far as I’m concerned.”

India thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs on Sunday. But Pakistan bounced back to restrict South Africa to a modest 219 for eight on a miserable day for skipper AB de Villiers, who was dismissed for a first golden duck in his 212th ODI innings and suffered a hamstring niggle.

Pakistan replied with 119 for three off 27 overs when rain ended the match, enough for victory by 19 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.

“Everybody gets first-ballers; it’s just taken him 200 games. I’ve got no concerns with AB de Villiers,” said Domingo. “I’m expecting a big performance from him on Sunday. He’s that type of player that, when the team needs him, he’ll turn it up.”

De Villiers played down his injury as a “little tweak”, saying: “I don’t think it’s too serious.” —AFP

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Julian Guyer
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