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ICC World Cup: England will face South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai

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In ICC World Cup, England will face South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai at 2 PM.

As they do when they bat, players tend to use triggers when they talk to the press. At the crease they use short, sharp movements – their back foot moving across the stumps as the bowler reaches their delivery stride, for instance. In front of the microphones they say the same word in answering different questions, usually to buy a moment’s time to mentally polish their responses.

Jos Buttler’s trigger word is “obviously”. He deployed it nine times in his short press conference on Friday (October 20), usually to buy a moment’s time to mentally polish his answers to questions.

The care and effort to take these things seriously is appreciated; Buttler is among cricket’s more articulate and thoughtful press conference victims. But the admittedly weak joke is on him: little is obvious about England’s World Cup match against South Africa at the Wankhede on Saturday.

England lost to Afghanistan in Delhi on Sunday, and South Africa to the Netherlands in Dharamsala on Tuesday. That followed England’s defeat to New Zealand and their win over Bangladesh, and South Africa’s successes over Sri Lanka and Australia. Clear as mud, innit?

What is crystal is that Saturday’s match looms as a knockout game in all but official status. Another win and the campaign will be resurrected. Another loss, especially for England, and thoughts will turn to a long and draining traipse around India waiting to be one of the six sides who will be eliminated after the league stage. A dead team walking, you might say.

South Africa’s chances of doing so seemed to suffer a setback when Heinrich Klaasen went down, courtesy of a tasty tackle by David Miller, in a game of warm-up football on the Wankhede’s outfield ahead of Friday evening’s training session. But, after a long moment spent sitting on the turf, with Miller in close and perhaps anxious attendance, Klaasen rose and got on with things. Then Quinton de Kock took the nets, which he rarely does in optional sessions. And then Miller sent a ball arching from the middle many metres in the muggy air, over the straight boundary and over 14 rows of seats and into the reassuringly thick plate glass that fronts the pressbox. Nuggets of apparent nothingness like those are magnified in the context of matches as big as this.

The South Africans won’t be under only the, ahem, obvious pressure. The match will end hours before the Springboks play England in Paris in a rugby World Cup semifinal. The Boks have won three World Cups, the Proteas none. The Boks have never lost a final. The Proteas have never reached a final.

So it meant something that Springbok captain Siya Kolisi took time out of his team’s preparations for the match to send his cricketing counterparts a video. “We believe in you guys,” Kolisi said as he stood next to head coach Jacques Nienaber. “We trust you guys. One hiccup, but you know what to do. Enjoy it and play as hard as you can. You know that over 60-million South Africans will be supporting you, including us. So make it special.”

The significant coincidence wasn’t lost on Temba Bavuma, who said at his press conference: “It doesn’t happen often that two sports converge in a global product like they will do this weekend. There’s a lot of excitement about Super Saturday in South Africa. It’s extra context to add to what is going to be a crucial battle. A lot of us love our rugby so we’ll definitely be supporting the Springboks. We play first so the responsibility’s on us to put smiles on our compatriots’ faces, make sure we go out and entertain. And bring back the win.”

Bavuma also used a verbal trigger in his press conference. It was also “obviously”, and he also deployed it nine times. That’s how little there is to separate England and South Africa.


South Africa Squad: Temba Bavuma(c), Quinton de Kock(w), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Reeza Hendricks, Lizaad Williams

England Squad: Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler(w/c), Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Reece Topley, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson

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