The much-awaited India vs South Africa series is here and the two sides will go head to head in the first T20 match of the three-match series at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium in Dharamshala on Friday.
South Africa started this tour with a big loss as they were handed a thumping 8-wicket defeat in the warm up T20 game by India A at the Palam Grounds in New Delhi couple of days ago.
Team India on the other hand, have been sweating it out in the nets. First, the entire squad attended a preparatory camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and then they opted for a boot camp in Dharamshala where they reached two days prior to their scheduled arrival so that they can train at high altitude.
The first T20 will set the tone for the rest of the series and the players seem all set for the action.
Let us take a look at five expected key clashes in the first match of the high-voltage series:
1. Virat Kohli vs Imran Tahir: Kohli's batting characteristics are arguably similar to Superman's attributes! Just exaggerating. But on a serious note, he can do no wrong when Team India needs him. One of the most feared batsmen in the world, he can tear apart any bowling attack ruthlessly in the shorter formats of the game.
Tahir, on the hand, will be wary of Kohli being the No. 1 T20 batsman in the world and would look to bowl to him carefully. If Tahir drfits from his line and length, then Kohli will swing and when the latter swings, the ball surely travels the distance.
2. Ab de Villiers vs Ravichandran Ashwin: Clash of the titans, one may call this to be! De Villiers aka cricket's 'Mr. 360 degrees' is arguably one of the most devastating batsmen in the world and he knows Indian conditions well. He will be big fish for the Indian bowlers, especially Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin has got the better of De Villiers a number of times in his career. He too is aware of the fact that when De Villiers is on song, then no boundary is too long. Ashwin has to bowl an impeccable line and length if he has to get De Villiers out on Friday.
3. JP Duminy vs Harbhajan Singh: Left-handed batsman up against the most experienced bowler in this Indian squad at this moment is a contest spectators would love to see. Duminy is a clever batsman and can press his foot on the peddle whenever he wants to. He can also hit the cricket ball a long way.
This is where the experience of Harbhajan Singh will come into play. He can contain the flow of runs by bowling tight yorkers at the death overs and a good line and length during the middle overs. He has done it for India in the past and he will be itching to get the white ball in his hands on Friday.
4. Ajinkya Rahane vs Chris Morris: Both Rahane and Morris play for the same Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, Rajasthan Royals. Rahane has faced Morris in the nets during the IPL and has played alongside him. As a result, he will be aware of the Proteas paceman's strengths and weaknesses and vise-versa.
Will Morris have some hidden trick up his sleeves to dismiss Rahane on Friday? Well, we will have to wait and watch!
5. Suresh Raina vs Eddie Leie: Raina is ideally ready to take the baton of the 'finisher' from MS Dhoni as he can be as destructive as his skipper. A mouth-watering encounter between a young leggie who has just stepped into international cricket and a seasoned pro in this format of the game!