The Freedom Series: Where it will be won
We take a closer look at the factors that could decide the series.
The battle lines are drawn. The wait is almost over. With just under 20 hours to go before the world’s top 2 ranked test teams lock horns in what will be a hard fought battle where neither team will want to lose ground nor hold anything back. It will be intriguing to note where the series could be won or lost for either team.
While everyone is expecting the obvious contests to take place – India’s vaunted batting lineup against South Africa’s dangerous bowling lineup, South Africa’s prolific batsmen against India’s spinners and swing bowlers – it’s the not so obvious battles which may ultimately determine the fate of The Freedom Trophy:
1. Faf du Plessis vs. Virat Kohli: South Africa’s shrewd tactician will go up against India’s master motivator in what will be a battle of wits as much as skills. Strategy will play a key role in 2 equally balanced sides and the one with better plans and execution could win the day for their team.
2. Quinton de Kock and SA’s lower order vs. India’s bowlers: India have been guilty on several occasions of letting the opposition off the hook. Their bowlers toil hard to skittle out the top order only for them to then release the pressure and let the lower order to rally and deflate India’s chances and spirits. This can be another instance where history repeats itself. Quinton de Kock is fast growing into the best wicket keeper batsman of this generation and together with the lower order, which has more than capable batsmen in Philander, Steyn and Rabada, can offer stout resistance and pose a serious threat to India’s chances in the series.
3. India’s lower order vs. SA’s bowling attack: India’s lower order have recently bailed them out of tricky situations on quite a few occasions back home and will need to contribute here as well if the top order wobbles and if India are to keep close to South Africa. Saha, Ashwin or Jadeja (whoever plays) and Kumar will have to play significant roles with the bat when their turn comes.
4. The battle of the all-rounders: If both teams decide to use their all-rounders, South Africa – Chris Morris or Theunis de Bruyn or both and India – Hardik Pandya, then the battles between the all-rounders could prove pivotal in the final outcome of the series. While Pandya and de Bruyn both offer a similar option for their respective teams as batting all-rounders, Morris presents a different option for South Africa as a bowling all-rounder. Pandya has the X factor about him and Morris has the experience (SA may go with him over de Bruyn for this reason) and they could both really give their teams the extra edge that they so will be seeking in a close contest.
5. Spinner vs. Spinner: While South Africa will use their slow bowler more as a run saving option, India on the other hand will use either or both their spinners as wicket taking options. On pitches, which will predominantly support the pace bowlers, whichever team’s spinner proves more effective will swing the advantage their team’s way.
6. Fielding: South Africa’s fielding has always been electric, but for the first time they will be up against an Indian team who will match them in the field. In Jadeja, Kohli and Pandya, India have some of the most agile and fit men in world cricket. In a battle between two equally balanced teams, one great catch or one missed chance, a stunning run-out and runs saved in the field could ultimately be the difference between the teams. So, there it is. Six key battles, which may ultimately decide whether it is India or South Africa who will hold aloft the Freedom Trophy in the first ever Freedom Series.