What are India's biggest threats heading into the final against South Africa?

India and South Africa, the only two unbeaten sides, will go face-to-face in the showdown in Barbados on Saturday (June 29).
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And then there were two. India and South Africa, the only two unbeaten sides, will go face-to-face in the showdown in Barbados on Saturday (June 29). It’s fitting that the two best performers will meet to decide the ultimate winner of T20 World Cup 2024, even though both can be proud of their achievements throughout the tournament.

For Rohit Sharma and his team, the challenge will be more intense than ever, for they will be up against a ruthless South African unit that has been unstoppable. India have been in this phase multiple times in the last ten years but failed to cross the final hurdle. There will be the pressure to take that monkey off the back as they get another attempt in an ICC event.

We look at the biggest threats for India heading into a blockbuster final against the mighty Proteas.

The late surge of Quinton de Kock

Quinton de Kock might have struggled in the US leg but he has been South Africa’s best batter since their start of the West Indies phase. He is South Africa’s leading run-getter, with 204 runs at a strike rate of 143.66 in eight outings. He also has two fifties.

The track in Barbados won’t aid spinners much, which would increase his probability of firing again. De Kock won’t need to bat long; his role would be to provide a flying start and unsettle India’s opening pace bowlers, and his powerplay strike rate of 158.42 depicts his capability. He will have to nullify the threats that Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh pose.

Arshdeep Singh has dismissed him thrice in 32 balls, while Jasprit Bumrah has also sent him back once in nine deliveries. This matchup will be one to watch out for early on. However, Quinton has handled Hardik Pandya well, scoring at 186.20 without getting dismissed.

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Tristan Stubbs and Heinrich Klaasen - key vs Indian spinners

Indian spinners have flown high in the Caribbean leg of this T20 World Cup and will hold the key for India again. However, they will be up against a solid middle order with two fine spin players. Tristan Stubbs and Heinrich Klaasen must step up and counter the spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, and Kuldeep Yadav.

Aiden Markram and David Miller haven’t found going easy against slow bowlers, striking at 119.15 and 115.50 vs spin, respectively, in T20s in 2024. While Markram has taken 10.70 deliveries for every boundary, Miller finds the ropes every 7.79 balls this year. That makes Stubbs, striking at 159.88, and Klaasen, striking at 181.25, more vital in the middle order.

Stubbs and Klaasen’s balls-per-boundary ratio of 5.53 and 4.41, respectively, will help to put Indian spinners under pressure. Stubbs also has personal experience facing Kuldeep and Axar in the nets, which might be handy in the game. A lot will depend on how well these two take Indian spinners down.

Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen, and Anrich Nortje - the ultimate pace trio

South Africa have one of the most formidable and consistent pace attacks in the T20 World Cup 2024. South African pacers have been unplayable in favourable conditions and scalped wickets in every phase. Virat Kohli, who averages a mere 6.50 vs pace this T20 World Cup, will be under pressure again.

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South African pacers have taken the second joint-most wickets (37) in the T20 World Cup 2024, averaging 16. Further, their economy rate (5.68) is the third-best among all 20 teams (best among Super 8 sides).

The tracks in Barbados have favoured pacers, who have a better average (20.22) than spinners (26.40) this T20 World Cup. The speedsters have generated pace and carry here, and Proteas’ speedsters should enjoy that. However, the key will be to roll their fingers and take the pace off the ball. The contest will be between Indian batters vs South African pacers, and the winner of this mini-contest will more likely go all the way through.

Can Keshav Maharaj weave his magic?

Keshav Maharaj has been phenomenal, snaring 9 wickets at 16.88 runs apiece and conceding only 6.08 runs per over. However, he will have his task cut out this game, given that Indian pacers have handled spin well. India have the second-best average (38.50) and a strike rate (131.62) vs spin among Super 8 teams.

Further, the track also won’t have much to support his craft. Maharaj is consistent and bowls accurate lines and lengths, which would make him hard to hit. Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 wickets at 7.54 balls apiece, can be the dark horse from the other end. His probability of taking wickets will be high since batters will go after him.

A lot will depend on how Maharaj performs. Keshav has 10 wickets at 18 balls apiece in ten T20I innings against India. His job will be to keep Indian batters quiet.

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