MIRPUR, Bangladesh (AP) — Hashim Amla is all too aware that the performance of the India spinners will go a long way to deciding the World Twenty20 semifinal against South Africa on Friday.
The challenge posed by legspinner Amit Mishra and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who have each won two player-of-the-match awards so far in the tournament, compounds the threat already posed by India's powerful batting lineup.
India entered the World T20 in the midst of a form slump but has peaked at the right time, and is the only unbeaten team.
South Africa also has a balanced lineup, including batsmen adept at playing spin, but will need to adjust quickly to the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium pitch, which has been playing slower and lower than the Chittagong wicket where the Proteas played their group games.
"The wickets in Chittagong had a bit more pace and bounce," Amla said ahead of the match. "There is a bit of a difference here and that's something we'll have to look out for."
Also, while India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is in line to hold all three ICC titles simultaneously since he led the team to the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy, South Africa has almost always faltered at the knockout stage in big tournaments.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said that India has shown it can handle the pressure. .
"That (handling pressure) is something India has done very well over the past few days," du Plessis said. "They have always been a team that does well in big tournaments."
The South Africa skipper said his team was working extra hard to prepare for spin.
"We've put in some really hard practice on really abrasive surfaces, making sure that we almost over-practiced against the ball that is turning too much," du Plessis said.
Yuvraj Singh's 43-ball 60 against Australia also gives confidence to Dhoni since the left-hander can decimate any bowling on his day.
Yuvraj, who missed a practice session Wednesday after a foot injury sustained during a football session, was hoping to also chip in with the ball despite the presence of another left-arm spinner in Ravindra Jadeja.
"The pitch has helped spinners more as the tournament has progressed," Yuvraj said. "The wicket has been slow and I'm working hard on my bowling as well."
South Africa legspinner Imran Tahir, who has bagged 11 wickets in the tournament and has taken tips from Shane Warne, faces his biggest challenge in the tournament against the likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni.
South Africa's bowlers put up superb efforts to ensure two wins against New Zealand and the Netherlands and allrouner J.P. Duminy hopes the team can repeat the performance against the 2007 champion.
"The ways to win a game out of nothing is definitely something we will take confidence from," Duminy said. "But this is a new game It's a big game - the semi-final of a World Cup. It doesn't get bigger than this."
The other semifinal was scheduled to be played between the West Indies and Sri Lanka on Thursday.