Champions Trophy Opener

Source: AP/
Virat Kohli is the key to India's middle order. Source: AP/
World Cup winners India  take on South Africa  in the opening game of the 2013 Champions Trophy at Cardiff on Thursday night (AEST) full of confidence after crushing Australia by 243 runs in a warm-up match earlier this week.

In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, Viral Kohli has assumed the responsibility of being the key batsman at the top of the order. Dinesh Karthik has pressed his claims for a place in the side after scoring centuries against both Australia and Sri Lanka in the past week. Historically known for its strength in the spin bowling department, India will rely on its fast bowling contingent throughout this tournament on wickets that are more conducive to swing and seam bowling. Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma are likely to lead the attack after taking eight wickets between them against the Aussies.

While their opponents warmed up for this clash with two wins in the warm-up matches, South Africa goes to Cardiff having lost to Pakistan by six wickets earlier this week. With Graeme Smith and Jaques Kallis both missing the tournament, plenty of pressure will be on Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to get the runs required to win matches. There are some question marks surrounding the availability of de Villiers after Quinton de Kock was drafted into the squad as ‘cover’ for the skipper, but of more concern is the fitness of pace spearhead Dale Steyn. He is suffering from a side strain and is in doubt to line up on Thursday night (AEST).

South Africa has won five of the past seven meetings between these sides but they haven’t met in England since locking horns during the 1999 World Cup at Hove.

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