The last few weeks of this Cricket World Cup were predicted to be boring by some pundits a week or two ago. Nothing could have been further from the truth, judging by some of the games played in recent days.
There are still some twists and turns that have to be negotiated in the last few group-stage games. England are not a certainty for the semi-finals just yet, while Pakistan and Bangladesh are still in the hunt for a knock-out place, so the make-up of the final four is yet to be decided.
One game that has slipped under the radar is Australia’s battle with South Africa next Saturday in Manchester. All things being equal, this should bring together most of the key players from that explosive Test series in 2018 for the first time in national colours.
Steve Smith, David Warner, Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock were all heavily involved in making that series particularly antagonistic. It’s safe to say there’s no love lost between them still, though time may have mellowed them all.
There’s every chance Smith and Warner might be batting together while Rabada is bowling and De Kock is behind the stumps. There’s also no doubt players will exchange words, though hopefully these will be in the spirit that other games in this tournament have been played.
What happens though if Rabada gets hit around by Warner or De Kock gets off to a flier and starts to chirp about it? Old habits die hard and it would be foolish for both Faf du Plessis and Aaron Finch to not be ready to step in if things get a little spicy.
It will also be interesting to see whether there’s any crowd reaction. Apart from that boorish display by the crowd in Australia’s game against India, the jeering has been relatively sedate, but the South African crowds have shown an uncanny ability to get under the skin of Aussie players over the years.
If it’s a hot day, the amber fluid will be flowing and if the South Africans are on top, you can bet a few suggestions from Proteas fans will be heard – let alone the English locals – especially if Warner or Smith are based on the boundary rope.
All of this is conjecture of course. The players in question are all professionals, this is the last group-stage game for both sides and it doesn’t carry a lot of meaning, that series was 18 months ago and everyone’s moved on.
Nothing could go wrong… right?