South Africa embark on big weekend
Start time 2.15pm (03.15 GMT)
The Big PictureAfter a rare Test series loss at home, Australia are back in more familiar territory following their 2-0 win in the Twenty20 games against South Africa. What is not so recognisable is the format for the Australian one-day summer. The traditional tri-series has been swept aside in favour of separate five-match contests against South Africa and then New Zealand, much to the appreciation of the players and broadcasters. After the success of the Twenty20 matches in Melbourne and Brisbane over the past week - about 100,000 fans flocked to the two games - it will be fascinating to see what kind of support the 50-over format retains. Strong Australian performances will help and they go in as favourites against a developing South Africa that will rest key players throughout the series. The visitors know how important this weekend is, with Friday's Melbourne game followed by a match in Hobart on Sunday, as they aim to avoid a repeat of their one-day defeats in England last year after they had won the Test series there as well.
ODI form guideAustralia - WWWWW
South Africa - WWWWN
Team newsRyan Harris is the only player in Australia's 13-man squad who will definitely miss out but they have not yet decided whether to include Nathan Hauritz. The call will come down to the condition of the pitch on the morning of the game, although it is more likely they will enter with a three-man fast-bowling unit, the allrounder James Hopes and the spin of Cameron White and David Hussey. Brad Haddin returns to the side after being rested for the Twenty20s, as does Michael Clarke, who was declared fit despite battling a thumb injury. Australia's other main question is who should open with Shaun Marsh. Matthew Hayden has retired and Shane Watson is injured, so it will probably be either Clarke or James Hopes, both of whom have taken the role in the past.
Australia (probable) 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 Michael Clarke, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 Cameron White, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Hopes, 9 Nathan Bracken, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Shaun Tait.
South Africa have given no indication as to the makeup of their starting line-up, although AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are both expected to be fit having missed the second Twenty20. They will be hoping for a strong effort from Herschelle Gibbs, who struggled in the shorter games having not played for the past month due to his alcohol rehabilitation programme. They have already signalled a rotation system for their fast men, particularly the Test bowlers, so it's unlikely that all of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel will play.
South Africa (possible) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Vaughn van Jaarsveld, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Johan Botha (capt), 11 Dale Steyn.
Watch out for ...Michael Clarke was one of Australia's most in-form batsmen in the Test series and having carried a thumb problem since the Perth Test he will be refreshed after being rested for the Twenty20s. An increasingly important leader on the field, Clarke might also be called upon to open the innings as Australia search for a replacement for the injured Shane Watson to partner Shaun Marsh. If Clarke's form continues, a big one-day score cannot be far away.
JP Duminy was South Africa's best player in both the Twenty20 games, when he kept his head as those around him lost theirs. A pair of composed half-centuries indicated his outstanding form from the Test series would not be put away along with his white clothing. He could be South Africa's key batsman in these five ODIs and if he gets an opportunity to bat early, he must be a strong chance to post his first one-day international century.
Pitch & conditionsThe MCG pitch hasn't been especially helpful for spinners in state matches this season, so expect to see some speed from both attacks. After a couple of stinking hot days earlier in the week, a cool change has hit Melbourne and there could even be a shower or two on the morning of the match.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have never beaten South Africa in an ODI at the MCG. The teams have met at the venue five times for, believe it or not, five South African victories
- The MCG has been far from a happy hunting ground for Australia recently - they have lost three of their past four one-day internationals there
- It is nearly two years since the teams last met in an ODI, when Australia eliminated South Africa in a World Cup semi-final in the blistering heat of St Lucia
- South Africa's most recent victory over Australia was in the unforgettable 400-plus match in Johannesburg in 2005-06
Quotes"With the Twenty20 games the last week and now the 50-over rules changing as well the more senior guys in the Australian team are asking the state guys which way to go about things, which is probably roles reversed."
Ricky Ponting on the new ODI rules, including the batting powerplay
"This weekend is probably one of the bigger weekends for the South African one-day team. In England we struggled a bit, so to get our confidence back this is a big weekend for us."
Johan Botha knows the significance of starting the series well in Melbourne on Friday and Hobart on Sunday
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo