The Freedom test series is finally underway.India is hoping to improve its dismal record overseas, but the Springboks have already drawn first blood. The series promises to be an exciting contest between two teams who are in form and on top of their game. Here are some of the key battles on the 22-yard strip that we are looking forward to!
With Dale Steyn’s exit,MorneMorkel is now the fulcrum of South Africa’s bowling attack. There is no doubt that he will lockhorns with India’s premier batsman. Getting Viratout early will be a big plus for the Springboks. The Achilles heel for the towering fast bowler will be his penchant for overstepping the crease. After all, he holds the dubious record of taking the most wickets off no-balls! On the other hand,Kohli is in excellent form. If he can weather Morkel’sstorm, he will be well on his way to neutralise the threat of South Africa’s much-acclaimed pace attack. Whichever way it goes, it promises to be an interesting battle on the cards.
Arguably, South Africa’s best player of spin bowling, de Villiers will no doubt look to dominate Ashwin to deflate India’s confidence. With the pitches in South Africa offering little or no turn, Ashwin will have to use all the aces up his sleeve to counter de Villiers’ stroke play.
Bhuvneshwar is an underrated bowler: his ability to swing the ball both ways makes him a potent weapon in India’s armoury when playing overseas. Amla’s propensity to shuffle across the crease makes him a prime candidate for leg before. He could also end up nicking one to the slips on the away going ball. If the pitches aid swing movement, Bhuvneshwar will prove to be more than a handful for Amla!
Think of this as a face-off between a classical music virtuoso and a rock star. Pujara is probably India’s most technically sound batsman who can bat for days, forget hours! It will be Rabada’s raw pace versus Pujara’s sound defence. Both had a good outing in 2017: Pujara finished as the second highest run-getter, while Rabada was the most successful South African bowler. If Pujara can blunt the speedster, it will lay the foundation for a successful tour for the Indians. But if Rabada manages to get him out early, it may just throw the cat among the pigeons.This will be one mouth-watering contest!
Rohit Sharma may have made three double hundreds in the shorter version of the game, but he isyet to become a regular in the test side. However, his aggressive batting promises to take the match away from the opposition. If he comes in to bat against the second new ball, he may have to contend with the nagging line and accuracy of Vernon Philander. Philander is deadly with the new ball as he keeps nibbling away just outside the off stump. Rohit may have to curb his natural instincts and play the waiting game against him to survive. Or will he try to dominate Philander? Only time will tell.