India against South Africa: The Twenty20 World Cup cricket finale features two unbeaten teams

India is aiming to end its 11-year trophy drought in global cricket competitions. South Africa is chasing its first men’s World Cup title in any limited-overs format.

The Twenty20 World Cup finale at Bridgetown, Barbados on Saturday will feature the tournament’s two unbeaten teams and it’ll end in either triumph or heartbreak for opposing captains Rohit Sharma of India and Aiden Markram of South Africa.

Sharma’s India squad has calmly seen off opposing teams with dominant performances – with the bat and the ball — on tricky pitches in the United States and the Caribbean, reaching its third T20 World Cup final by eliminating defending champion England in a lopsided semifinal.

“We’ve been very calm as a team,” Sharma said. “We do understand the occasion (in the final) but for us, it’s important to keep calm and composed.”

Markram’s South African lineup didn’t panic in tougher game scenarios in the group stage and in the Super Eight before finally skittling first-time semifinalist Afghanistan for just 56 runs to coast into the championship decider.

“It’s a personal and individual motivation that you get to a final, to earn the opportunity to hopefully lift the trophy,” said Markram, the first captain to steer a Proteas team into a World Cup final. “But we all understand (as a team) this game and how it works and how things can go for you, things can go against you, and you take that in your stride.”

Sharma emphasized calmness as the key to India’s success, but wants to continue making the right decisions in the big moments.

India showed plenty of depth in its squad and signaled it would be the team to beat when it successfully defended 119 against archrival Pakistan in the group stage on a difficult and much criticized drop-in pitch in New York.

“We need to make good decisions through the 40 overs,” Sharma said. Yes, we do understand the occasion is important, but we need to play good cricket as well.”

In a bowlers’ tournament on variable wickets, Sharma’s aggressive intent in the power plays has helped India put opposition teams on the backfoot early. His back-to-back half centuries in the last two games helped eliminate the past two champions – Australia and England – despite his opening partner Virat Kohli going through a lean patch and scoring just 75 runs in seven games.

Kohli is yet to replicate Sharma’s aggression and has been dismissed without scoring twice in his worst-ever appearance in six T20 World Cups.

“We understand his class and importance in big games. Form is never a player when you’ve played for 15 years,” Sharma said. “He’s looking good, the intent is there, (and) probably he’s saving himself for the final.”

Sharma is the only remaining active player from the India lineup that won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. Sharma, Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja were part of the squad that went close to winning the title in 2014 in Bangladesh before losing to Sri Lanka in the final.

Like Sharma, Markram has also led South Africa admirably throughout the tournament that started June 1, including nervy wins over Bangladesh and Nepal in the group stage.

Pace bowlers Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada posed constant threats and are likely to challenge the aggression of Sharma. Spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj are capable of exploiting the perfect bowling conditions.

Quinton de Kock, with 204 runs in South Africa’s eight consecutive wins, is the only Proteas batter with 200-plus runs in the tournament. David Miller’s 148 is the next highest tally in a series of games dominated by the bowlers.

Rabada and Nortje have combined for 25 wickets in the tournament, while Maharaj and Shamsi have 20 wickets between them.

Markram is conscious that South Africa has never got this far in any major tournament — slipping in the semifinals seven previous times in the T20 or 50-over formats — but also aware of the strengths those past stars have helped create.

“They were guys that are legends of the game, legends of South African cricket,” he said. “In my eyes, it doesn’t matter if they made a final or not, because they inspired all of us to play cricket for South Africa.

“Because of them, we’re trying to represent those people that have played before us, so we’re glad we’ve made them proud, (and) to an extent I still feel we’ve got one more step left.”


AP cricket:

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