International cricket returns to Indian soil for the first time since March when the Men in Blue take on South Africa in a three-match T20 series beginning on Sunday.
While India will be looking to extend their formidable record at home, the Proteas will be itching to bounce back after a miserable World Cup campaign.
With exciting players on both sides, the three-match series promises to be an entertaining battle and could be decided by the finest of margins.
Here, we look at three key battles that could prove decisive in the series.
Rohit Sharma vs Beuran Hendricks
The India deputy skipper had a sensational World Cup campaign where he became the first batsman to register five tons in a single edition with the first of them coming against South Africa.
The classy right-hander, however, has had his troubles against left-armed pacers in the past with both Mohammad Amir and Trent Boult giving him a tough time. That vulnerability is what South Africa will hope to exploit with the help of Beuran Hendricks.
The 29-year-old has the ability to produce quality deliveries if there is some swing in the air. He will have his task cut out, however, against a batsman who has a record four T20I tons to his name.
Navdeep Saini vs Quinton de Kock
India have placed huge faith on Navdeep Saini’s inexperienced shoulders by not picking any senior pacers like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Saini is likely to handle the new-ball responsibilities alongside Deepak Chahar, and the 26-year-old will be looking to build on the promise he showed in his maiden series in West Indies recently.
The right-armed pacer can crank up the speeds as well but he will have to be at the top of his game in his battle against Quinton de Kock. The explosive wicketkeeper batsman is standing in as South Africa skipper in India and he will be desperate to lead from the front with the bat.
If the Proteas man can get going in India, he can cause serious damage.
Kohli vs Rabada
Two men who have recently been overshadowed by their contemporaries will be itching to make their names heard again.
Kohli’s brilliance in West Indies was overshadowed by Steve Smith’s stunning Ashes campaign while Rabada has seen the limelight taken away from him in recent times by the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Jofra Archer.
Both players will be the focal points for their respective teams and their duel promises to be an intriguing one. Rabada, still one of the best pacers in the game, has had his run-ins in the past with Kohli, and the dominant pair will not want to concede a single inch against each other in the upcoming series.
A battle between an elite batsman and an equally formidable world-class bowler can always ignite a series as Smith’s tussle with Archer in England just showed. This series could well be defined by how Kohli fares against Rabada.
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