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South Africa v Australia, 1st T20I, Preview – Aussies return to the shortest format against a refurbished De Kock-led hosts

Given the nature of South African pitches of late, we can certainly expect the men with the willow to set up the fireworks.

Quinton de Kock
Quinton de Kock. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

Australia return to the shortest flagship of the game after almost three months as they are set to rub shoulders with a reconditioned South Africa in the first of three T20Is at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, on February 21. They head into the series with little preparation in terms of game time, while their opponents are better equipped after having participated in a high voltage series with England, which finished 2-1 in the visitors’ favour.

Quinton de Kock lead from the front against Eoin Morgan and Co. but he couldn’t prevail in the nail-biting moments of the series. While the second fixture was lost due to Tom Curran’s brilliance in the final two deliveries of the match, poor bowling efforts from the Proteas pacers gifted Morgan a 22-ball 51; an innings studded with seven maximums.

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They have a prolific opening partnership in the form of de Kock and Temba Bavuma, but the middle order needs to step up if an early wicket falls. Dale Steyn’s return has certainly added much-needed quality to the South African line-up, but the bowling unit needs to click as a team.

Meanwhile, Australia’s tour of South Africa is largely headlined by the return of David Warner and Steve Smith for the first time since the infamous ball-tampering scandal. On paper, they have a well-balanced squad, but the balance and the manner in which a few inexperienced stars respond at the highest level holds the key.

Given the nature of South African pitches of late, we can certainly expect the men with the willow to set up the fireworks. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the highly anticipated bi-lateral tussle between South Africa and Australia.

Team Combination

South Africa

The home side rely heavily on the terrific duo of Bavuma and the skipper. Rassie van der Dussen hasn’t been among the runs recently, and he’ll be eyeing a breakthrough innings at number 3. David Miller‘s experience and big-hitting prowess may result in him batting at five, ahead of the all-rounders– Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius. Faf du Plessis, who recently surrendered his captaincy, is set to slot into the middle order. South Africa will also have to get their bowling combinations right, but they’ll be better armed with the return of Kagiso Rabada.

Predicted XI: Quinton de Kock (C & WK), JJ Smuts, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Henrich Klaasen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi

Bench – Petrus van Biljon, Bjorn Fortuin, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorious, Temba Bavuma

Australia

The reliable duo of David Warner and Aaron Finch will begin the innings for the Aussies, with Steve Smith to follow. The middle-order is where the think tank must spare a few thoughts over, as D’Arcy Short, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Marsh are gunning for spots.

Jhye Richardson’s return to the international frame is a great sign for the nation as well as the youngster after he was robbed off a World Cup and Ashes spot due to a shoulder injury. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are likely to share the new ball. Adam Zampa should get the nod over Ashton Agar unless the management opts of field two front line spinners – an unlikely permutation at the Wanderers.

Predicted XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (C), Steve Smith, Matthew Wade/D’Arcy Short, Alex Carey (WK), Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson/Kane Richardson/Sean Abbott

Bench: Matthew Wade/D’Arcy Short, Jhye Richardson/Kane Richardson/Sean Abbott

Focus will be on

Temba Bavuma 

After a 29-ball 31 in the second T20I against England raised questions over his ability to accelerate, Temba Bavuma struck a quick-fire 49 in the final game to put his doubters to bed. He is an epitome of clean hitting, balance and pure timing. More so, the fact that himself and de Kock have only failed to add a 50+ score for the first wicket on one occasion at the top of the order makes him a serious force to reckon with. Additionally, his ability to play the short ball with aptness is another crucial key factor behind SA’s fortunes.

David Warner 

It’s no surprise to see Australia’s pocket rocket – David Warner – hog the limelight ahead of the series. The player has been in scintillating touch ever since he donned the yellow of Australia again, especially in white-ball cricket. He is sure to be welcomed with serious hostility, but Warner’s top strength is to soak in pressure and deliver.

His sheer consistency at the top despite scoring at a rate above 140 is perhaps unparalleled in the shortest format, while an ethereal average of 287 since his return to T20I cricket in October 2019 speaks volumes of Australia’s dependency on their talisman.

Head to head

Matches – 19 | South Africa Won – 7 | Australia Won – 11 | Tie – 0 | No result – 0

Stat attack

155.19 – The strike at which the deadly David Warner scores his T20 runs against South Africa. He only has a better strike rate (156.4) against New Zealand. The swashbuckling opener has 329 runs in 11 outings against SA.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony Six

Live streaming – Sony LIV

Match timings – 6:00 PM local time (9:30 PM IST)

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