While India will be looking to make a big statement in their opener, the Proteas are under immense to open their account after falling to defeats against hosts England and then Bangladesh.
The clash between two formidable ODI outfits will involve several sub-plots with plenty of star quality on both sides. Here, we take a look at three such key individual battles which could have a decisive impact on the final result.
TAHIR VS DHONI
Two veterans who know each other all too well will go head-to-head with MS Dhoni squaring up against Imran Tahir. Both players are on the last legs of their international careers and will be looking to make a big splash in their final World Cup campaigns.
They have played together for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL for two years running now and as such, will know what to expect from the other when they face up on Tuesday.
While Dhoni is key to India’s middle-order, Tahir is South Africa’s primary wicket-taking threat apart from Kagiso Rabada. Dhoni will be in confident mood after an excellent IPL campaign and comes into the clash on the back of a superb ton against Bangladesh in the warm-up game.
Tahir, on the other hand, also had a brilliant IPL and the leg-spinner has looked the best South African bowler on show in the World Cup so far with four wickets in two games.
Can wily old Tahir bamboozle his CSK skipper or will the India veteran have the last laugh?
BUMRAH VS DE KOCK
The second key battle also involves two IPL team-mates going head-to-head with the Mumbai Indians’ duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Quinton de Kock set to play big roles for their respective sides on Wednesday.
Bumrah has been standout white-ball pacer over the last two years and is deservedly ranked No1 in the ODI format. De Kock, meanwhile, is one of the most destructive openers in limited-overs cricket when on song.
Both the players were excellent in Mumbai’s record fourth IPL title triumph recently and will not be lacking in sharpness and form when they come face to face with each other at Southampton.
Bumrah will be tasked with getting early wickets for India with the new-ball and he will need to get the better of the Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman to achieve that. If De Kock can negate Bumrah and get South Africa off to a good start, it will be half the battle won for the Proteas.
KOHLI VS RABADA
The biggest battle of them all on Wednesday will undoubtedly be the one between India skipper Virat Kohli and South Africa pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada. It is a contest that has assumed greater significance following Rabada’s disparaging comments about Kohli’s on-field behavior in the IPL.
“Maybe he (Kohli) does it because it gets him going, but that comes across as very immature for me. He is a phenomenal player but he can’t take the abuse.” Rabada had stated recently.
Both Rabada and Kohli have been no strangers to on-field confrontations and the former’s latest comments will only add fuel to the fire in their upcoming battle. They are also one of the best in the business at what they do, be it registering tons at will in the case of Kohli or running through opposition batting units like butter in the case of Rabada.
Who ever wins this duel could very well win the match for his respective team.
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