On Sunday in Perth, India will perhaps face the toughest opponent in their group at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. Rohit Sharma and Co got the threat of their subcontinental rivals Pakistan out of the way in the opener, so the one true hurdle between them and the coveted top spot in the group (apart from rain, perhaps) remains South Africa.

Just a few weeks ago, India completed their first home T20I series victory over the Proteas by a 2-1 margin. In the build up to the T20 World Cup, it was a good idea for these two opponents to face each other and get a few chinks in their armours out of the way but who will have the advantage over the other in an encounter in the egalitarian Australian conditions is a different ball-game altogether.

Currently, the two teams are undefeated in Super 12 Group 2. While India have the edge with four points, South Africa further booster their NRR with the 104-run win over Bangladesh. They should have been on four points but for a cruel weather intervention against Zimbabwe.

India’s campaign at the World Cup so far has been dictated by the brilliance of their batters, particularly Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav. And it has been Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw’s performances that have been the highlight for the Proteas

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Here’s a look at the match-ups to keep an eye out on in the India vs South Africa match at Perth:

Quinton de Kock vs Indian pacers

Had it not been for the washout against Zimbabwe, Quinton de Kock was on course to script a comfortable win for his team in their tournament opener. He was striking at 261 and batting on 47 off 18 when the match was called off and the teams shared points. He was in sublime touch even against Bangladesh, where he registered a 38-ball 68 in a thumping victory for the Proteas.

In the three-match T20I series against India earlier, de Kock was the leading run-scorer with 138 runs at an average of 69.00 and scores 1, 69*, 68. In this format, he averages 51.83 against India and he definitely is the batter to watch out for.

So far, India’s new ball bowlers have done their job well, extracting some movement and keeping things in control in the first six. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami – assuming they will bowl in the first six again – would be desperate to see de Kock back in the pavilion soon. The longer he bats, the more license South Africa’s middle order will have for a proper end-overs assault.

Alternatively, it might not be a surprise to see Rohit Sharma throw the ball early to R Ashwin. De Kock’s T20I strike rate against pace is over 145, against off-spin it comes down to around 114.

Suryakumar Yadav vs Keshav Maharaj

Suryakumar Yadav, the leading run-scorer in T20Is this year, is undoubtedly the X-factor India possesses. His presence in the line-up ensures that India can indeed take that aggressive approach in T20 cricket that the Indian think-tank talks about so often now.

A maverick, equipped with unorthodox shot-making, Suryakumar takes on both pace and spin. Meanwhile, Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s premier spinner, picked up four wickets in three matches at an average of 19.50 in the recent T20I series in India. If he’s able to tackle Suryakumar early on, India’s batting woes could definitely be exposed. The counter to this the slow scoring rate, generally, against slow left arm for the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya. Suryakumar’s mindset has been to take on bowlers from word go, and if he can throw South Africa’s plans awry by going after Maharaj, it could be the difference between a par and above par score.

In his T20I career so far, the right-hander has scored 34 runs off Anrich Nortje in four innings and 85 runs of Kagiso Rabada in 10 innings. But the battle will ultimately boil down to how Suryakumar fares against Maharaj’s economical bowling. Will he take him on or play him out?

David Miller vs Indian death bowling

The kind of form David Miller has been in this year, no bowler is really safe. He pulled off heists regularly in Indian Premier League 2022 playing as a finisher, and has had a good time with South Africa in the same role. From the century in Guwahati in the second T20I earlier this month to the unbeaten 34-ball 61 in Delhi earlier this year, Miller has staged quite a few shows against (and in) India.

Moreover, India’s death bowling has been their Achilles heels for far too long now. Without Jasprit Bumrah, they are particularly vulnerable. India continued to leak runs at the death in the Asia Cup and the bilateral series against South Africa and Australia, and also in the games against Pakistan and Netherlands in the World Cup.

A confident, in-form finisher who has scored 285 runs in 11 innings in 2022 will be up against a susceptible bowling line-up and it certainly is a match-up to watch out for.

So, who will come out on top in Perth remains to be seen. An interesting aspect remains the familiarity between Miller and Mohammad Shami from their time together at the Gujarat Titans. Shami, who India is hoping to rely on heavily in the death overs, has to bring out an aspect that can nip the Killer Miller threat in the bud... ideally, before the 19th and 20th overs.

IND vs SA men's T20Is

Team Mat India South Africa NR
Overall 23 13 9 1
In India 12 5 6 1
In South Africa 7 5 2 0
Neutral 4 3 1 0
ESPNCricinfo Statsguru

Which battle are you looking forward to in Perth on Sunday between India and South Africa? Let us know on Twitter by tagging @thefield_in.