The wait for Pakistan cricket fans is finally over as international cricket returns to the troubled nation for the third time in nine years. A high-quality T20I series is all set to get underway, with Pakistan taking on ICC World XI in the first of the three-match series, at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday. Led by South African skipper Faf du Plessis, the series is all set to rejuvenate new spirits in the Pakistan national team along with the fans, who have been starving for quality international cricket at home. As the time draws near, it would be worth watching the battles within the battle.

Faf du Plessis vs Sarfraz Ahmed: The battle of the two skippers has to be the first choice. The two experienced international players have not been head-to-head many a time, but they know each others’ strengths.

However, the advantage is on Sarfraz’s side, given he will be playing on his home turf. The Pakistan skipper would want to give it all in order to win it for his side and stay ahead in the race. That being said, counting out Faf would be a bad choice for Sarfraz, as the South African has more experience in calling the shots.

Fakhar Zaman vs Morne Morkel: In a battle of bat versus the ball, one such fight we could witness is between Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman and South Africa’s bowling all-rounder Morne Morkel. Although Fakhar did not have a great outing with the bat during the last T20I series in West Indies, he would be aiming to turn things around as he is a better player in the longest format. However, he must be ready enough to face stern competition from Morne. Thanks to his stint in IPL that he knows the subcontinent conditions well.

Imad Wasim vs Paul Collingwood: In the battle of all-rounders, it would be interesting to see how things go between Imad Wasim and retired English all-rounder Paul Collingwood. Imad has been a sensational cricketer for Pakistan so far. Although he did not have a good outing with the bat in the last T20I series in West Indies, he was the second most economical bowlers in the four-match series. As he prepares to better his performance at home, he would be facing a tough contest form Collingwood. Although it has been six years since Collingwood last played a T20I, he was a tremendous hit in the format and is undoubtedly one of the resounding T20 players. Being an ICC World T20 winner in 2010, Imad better buckle himself up, as this ride is surely to be a bumpy one.

Hasan Ali vs Hashim Amla: In another battle between the bat and ball, Pakistan’s Hasan Ali may have tough time against South Africa’s exquisite opener Hashim Amla. Hasan has been a good player in the T20Is, claiming 10 wickets form just 7 matches. In the last T20I series in West Indies, he was the second highest wicket-taker in the series, claiming four wickets in the four matches. However, with the series now being at home, he can expect himself to better the record. The only problem he could face is some tough batting from Amla. His last T20I match was against New Zealand in February 2017, where he scored a stellar 62. However, the conditions will be different in the subcontinent, and it is his stint in the IPL that would allow him to perform better in this series.

Imran Tahir vs Babar Azam: Although Babar is yet to prosper in the format, he has been a handy player for Pakistan in the format, scoring 253 runs off eight matches, including an average of 51 and a strike rate of 114. He has scored just a half-century, with an unbeaten 55 being his highest score. He also played a healthy knock of 38 in the last T20I in West Indies, while he was the highest run-scorer for Pakistan in the series. He scored 137 runs in four matches, along with an average of 39 and a strike rate of 120. Therefore, he is undoubtedly the batsman to watch out for Pakistan.

However, the big question is: how will he tackle the lethal spin from Tahir? When it comes to Tahir, nothing needs to be said. The Pakistan-born spinner has been a huge asset for South Africa. Although he could hardly fire in England, claiming a wicket in a couple of matches, it could be a happy homecoming for him as he prepares to rattle the Pakistan batting order on his home turf of Lahore.