With South Africa sure to miss Dale Steyn in their must-win group B game against Pakistan in Birmingham on Monday, AB De Villiers is depending on an Indian Premier League 'connection' to keep the Proteas in the hunt in the ICC Champions Trophy here. The articulate De Villiers said a win will also be a perfect way to send a "get-well" message to an ailing Nelson Mandela.
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The South African skipper, who was one of Royal Challengers Bangalore's top run-getters in IPL this season, is looking up to his Chennai Super Kings 'rival' Chris Morris to beat Pakistan in a crunch game at Birmingham. Â
The 26-year-old Morris is almost certain to start and De Villiers gave Morne Morkel's replacement a big boost saying: "He looks really fresh. Chris has impressed us all at the IPL and in the last year he's been amazing. He's a guy full of confidence and a guy that we really enjoy having around. You know, we were unlucky to have Morne and Dale injured, but to have a guy like Chris replace them is really pleasing to me."
Morris is a bowling all-rounder from Pretoria. He has played two T20 internationals for South Africa after making his debut against New Zealand in Durban in December 2012. His last match was against Pakistan at Centurion in March this year. With four wickets from two games and best of 2 for 19, Morris will be eager and anxious on his ODI debut.
De Villiers wants to win Monday's game against Pakistan for South Africa's legendary leader Mandela. The 94-year-old Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on Saturday for a lung infection. It was the third time in a year that he has been admitted to a hospital.
"He is a legend in our country. He obviously turned things around for our better formation. I just hope he gets better soon. We all know he's quite old. I think he's 95 right now, and I've still got a few years to get there, but I can only imagine it's not too easy moving around at that age.
"But I wish him well and hope he recovers really soon, and he can maybe still make a difference in our country in the next few years to come, and maybe even get the big 100 when it comes to birthdays.Â So we're hoping him to get better soon," said De Villiers.
Even as the South African cricketers passed on their good wishes to Mandela, their focus, of course, is on the Pakistani bowlers. Steyn is virtually ruled out and De Villiers said: "Chances are that he'll only be ready for the last one. We're still hanging on to that last little bit of hope that Styen could wake up tomorrow morning and do a bit of a fitness test and look good for the game."
Both South Africa and Pakistan lost their opening games against India and the West Indies, respectively. Nothing short of a win will keep the teams afloat in a short tournament where four teams make a group.
The only time the two nations met in the Champions Trophy, South Africa had defeated Pakistan by 124 runs at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali on October 27, 2006. On current form, it's difficult to predict a clear-cut favourite.
South Africa are wary about Pakistan's bowling attack and De Villiers mentioned off-spinner Saeed Ajmal for special mention on Sunday.Â "Pakistan obviously have got a world class spinner in Ajmal, and they're a very good team as well, just very different to India. India have a very strong batting lineup right throughout the order, whereas Pakistan have probably got a stronger bowling attacking.
"We played them in the recent past in South Africa and in the warm up game in London. We know them very well, and we're looking forward to the challenge tomorrow," said De Villiers, adding: "We'd like to have obviously wickets in hand towards the last 15 overs."
Conditions in Birmingham are likely to dictate team selection and South Africa may opt for an extra batsman, but the four-man pace attack seems to be their biggest strength.
De Villiers said: "Yesterday watching the game between Australia and England which looks like a similar wicket that we're playing on tomorrow, the one spinner from England, (James) Tredwell, bowled really well. But I thought it were the seamers that really started reversing the ball there towards the end, there was a bit of swing and really restricted the batters and made them look like they can't get it off the square." De Villiers said.