Battle of legends looming

Virat Kohli walks on air. AB de Villiers walks on water. Even the cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground may not be big enough for both of them.

But that is where De Villiers and Kohli will be on Sunday, when South Africa play India in the most important examination both teams will face of their potential to go all the way in the World Cup.

So far, India are winning that race. In their tournament openers on Sunday, SA stuttered to a win over Zimbabwe while India soared to victory against Pakistan.

De Villiers chipped and putted his way to 25 off 36 balls against one of the most modest attacks in international cricket.

Kohli showed determination to go with his dazzle and made 107.

De Villiers’s dismissal was part of SA’s slump to 83/4 – a situation he blamed on the slow, sticky pitch batsmen had to contend with early on.

Conditions eased to allow David Miller and JP Duminy to score centuries, and for Zimbabwe to score 277 before being dismissed.

India’s match against Pakistan – which like SA’s was a day-night game – was played 3 277km from warm, humid Hamilton in hot, dry Adelaide. But MS Dhoni also spoke of conditions that challenged the team who batted first.

“I’ve realised it’s not really easy to play in the afternoon, especially with the new ball,” the Indian captain said.

“There’s a bit of pace to deal with initially, and it does a bit off the seam. But as the game progresses it gets better and better, and in the second innings there’s not too much swing.

“I felt the pace got slightly better – it came on nicely and there was a bit more bounce, but the swing disappeared to a large extent.”

Sunday’s SA-India showdown will be another day-night affair. That means the looming duel between De Villiers and Kohli could be decided by the order of the innings rather than skill.

Kohli has scored five centuries in his 25 ODI innings since the beginning of last year.

In the same period, De Villiers has batted 20 times in ODIs and reached three figures three times – against Sri Lanka, Australia and the West Indies.

Three of Kohli’s tons were scored on the sub-continent, while De Villiers made only one of his at home – the world record 149 he smashed off West Indies at the Wanderers last month.

On Sunday, De Villiers came to the crease in the ninth over and was dismissed in the 21st. Kohli arrived in the eighth and departed in the 46th.

Kohli has thus made a better start to the tournament, but De Villiers is eminently capable of catching and surpassing him.

To see one of these fine players in action would be worth the price of admission. To see both a few hours apart is a bargain.

To see them in the rarefied pressure of a World Cup match is an irresistible rarity.

-Telford Vice

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