The Australia-South Africa rivalry will once again be renewed at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, as Highveld Lions take on Perth Scorchers in what promises to be a battle royale, despite one team missing quite a few of its warriors.
The Lions, who were runners-up in the previous edition, will look to go all the way, and on paper, they definitely have the firepower to come out on top.
Wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock has been in exemplary form of late, and the 20-year old will be central to skipper Alviro Petersen’s plans to bring home the trophy. The captain himself is an old hand at consolidating the innings, and along with veteran batsman Neil McKenzie and Gulam Bodi, he will shore up the batting.
With the ball, left-arm seamers Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Sohail Tanvir are the leaders of the pack, given their natural abilities to extract bounce and generate movement off the seam.
Tanvir, in particular, has bowled on Indian pitches before during his stint with the Rajasthan Royals and the Pakistan national team. His unorthodox bowling action (he can also send down a few overs of left-arm spin) has troubled batsmen around the world, and backed by his ability to clear the fence in pursuit of quick runs, the southpaw’s utility is clearly underlined.
The likes of Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir can change the course of a game with their tight bowling and knack for breaking threatening partnerships. Overall, the Lions have all their cards in the right place.
In contrast, the Perth Scorchers have been burned – hard – in both the batting and bowling departments.
Pacers Nathan Coulter-Nile and T20 specialist Alfonso Thomas have chosen to ply their trade elsewhere – the former for the Mumbai Indians – while in the batting department, Shaun Marsh is out nursing an injury, along with brother Mitchell.
However, the batting woes can be offset to some degree by the presence of skipper Simon Katich, former captain Marcus North and the experienced Adam Voges.
In the spin department, chinaman bowler Brad Hogg will be assisted by Michael Beer and teenage sensation Ashton Agar. Given that the Motera track offers plenty of assistance for the slower bowlers, Katich might be tempted to give Ashton Turner’s off-breaks a go.
The pace department will be shouldered by youngsters Jason Behrendorff, Liam Davis and Burt Cockley, with Joe Mennie providing reliable backup; only the lack of experience of playing on Indian pitches might go against them.
Conditions on offer
The Motera track has offered plenty of assistance to the slower bowlers, so both teams stand an equal chance of doing well if their tweakers can come to the party.
It has also played true to batsmen, and teams batting first on this track have had a higher percentage of winning than those who prefer to chase. Whoever wins the toss should, therefore, make first use of the wicket and look to bat throughout the innings.
In summary, the Highveld Lions are the better-balanced side on paper, so my money will be on them to win this game.
At the very least, the Perth Scorchers can come up trumps in the spin department, so it is the pacers the Lions will target. All said and done, this promises to be a cracker of a contest!