Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Sammy wants to seal semi-final spot by beating SA

Published:Friday | March 25, 2016 | 3:00 AM
South Africa's Faf du Plessis (left) inspects the pitch during a practice session yesterday at Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Nagpur, India. South Africa will play West Indies in an ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket match at the venue today.
West Indies’ captain Darren Sammy (left) listens to the team's head coach Phil Simmons during a recent training session in Bangalore, India.
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CRICKET: ICC Twenty20 World Cup

NAGPUR, India (AP) - West Indies captain Darren Sammy will be confidently aiming for a semi-final spot at the World Twenty20 when the 2012 champions take on South Africa in a Group 1 match today (9 a.m. Jamaica time).

West Indies have recorded convincing victories against England and Sri Lanka on contrasting pitches in Mumbai and Bangalore and Sammy believes his side can maintain its momentum. Victory would assure West Indies of a place in the semi-finals, even before their fourth and last group game against Afghanistan on Sunday at the same venue.

"We have six steps to the cup, we've taken two, tomorrow is about taking one more step toward our goal and that step is South Africa," he said.

"Hopefully we could entertain like we've been doing since the inception of T20 cricket and at the end of the day we'll be celebrating a place in the semi-finals."

Mystery surrounds how the wicket will behave as it has been covered for the last two days under baking sun in Nagpur.

If the wicket suits spinners like it did when New Zealand shocked hosts India in a low-scoring Group 2 opening match, Sammy has Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn to pose challenges for the strong South Africa side.

West Indies didn't feel the absence of the destructive Chris Gayle against Sri Lanka after Andre Fletcher stepped up and made a rapid unbeaten 84 off 64 balls.

Gayle, who scored a 47-ball century against England, couldn't bat at Bangalore because of a hamstring injury he sustained while fielding, but he has regained fitness for today's game.

And Sammy hinted Fletcher could get the nod ahead of Johnson Charles as Gayle's opening partner.

"It's a good headache to have whether we let Fletcher or Charles open the batting with Chris," he said. "The good thing is Fletcher has played really well ... we have a fair idea who will open tomorrow."

Despite the absence of their two key Twenty20 players Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine, West Indies twice successfully chased down the targets with ease. So much is the dominance of West Indies' regular bowlers that Sammy and even Gayle are yet to bowl in the tournament.

"That's the beauty of our team," Sammy said. "It's not about egos and stuff like that, it's about me as a captain doing what's necessary at the time on the field for the best interest of the team."

South Africa lost to England before beating Afghanistan and are in a must-win situation as another defeat could put them in danger of making an early exit from the tournament.

The Proteas scored over 200 runs against England and Afghanistan, but their bowlers went for plenty -- especially in the first six overs of batting powerplay in both games at Mumbai.

Joe Root's epic 83-run knock helped England chase down World T20's highest ever total of 230-8 while Afghanistan's bulky opener Mohammad Shahzad whacked a rapid 41 to give South Africa an early scare.

"As a team we've been possibly going at about 60-70 percent now for a while and I'm hoping that we'll step up the gear when it comes to crunch time for us in the tournament," said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis.

"There's a few mistakes we made, but I do think that bowling will be a little bit different in these conditions."

A hamstring injury to all-rounder JP Duminy during the Afghanistan match has also made South Africa consider bringing on Aaron Phangiso to supplement the legspin of Imran Tahir.