South Africa return against rebuilding Australia
Match FactsOctober 13, Cape Town
Start time 1800 (1600 GMT)
Australia's month-long tour of South Africa begins with a Twenty20 in Cape Town, a match that will be South Africa's first international in any format since March 25. During that same period, Australia have been to Bangladesh for a one-day series and Sri Lanka for Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s. They haven't been overworked, though, and by comparison South Africa will have to shed their rust as quickly as possible. They have a new captain, Hashim Amla, standing in for the injured AB de Villiers, while star players Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn are being rested. Still, Twenty20 is a format that South Africa have mastered considerably better than their opponents in recent years.
Australia are trying to find their best Twenty20 outfit, under the captaincy of Cameron White, and they have three uncapped men in this squad. One of those is the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who has benefited from Brad Haddin's recent retirement from the format and Tim Paine's broken finger. The side is also in a state of flux off the field: Troy Cooley is the acting coach for this trip after Tim Nielsen's resignation following the tour of Sri Lanka, while the selection panel is temporary while replacements are found. Five members of the Twenty20 squad will fly home ahead of the ODIs, so quite how much momentum the team could carry if they win in the shortest format is questionable. But kicking off the tour with a win would be an adequate start.
South Africa LWWWW
In the spotlight
Hashim Amla is one of the world's finest batsmen, but he is yet to show his best against Australia. Across all formats, he averages 39.05 against Australia, compared to an overall mark of 49.70. He also has the burden of captaining his country for the first time in his career. Graeme Smith is on hand to provide advice but the best way for Amla to lead is from the front - with big runs at the top of the order.
At 18, Patrick Cummins will become Australia's second-youngest debutant in any format. Only Ian Craig, who won a baggy green at 17, was younger. Cummins bowls with genuine speed and has won rave reviews, most recently from his team-mate Shane Watson, who said Cummins was "as impressive as I've seen for any young guy coming through for the past ten years". He is, however, incredibly raw, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressures of international cricket.
The injury to AB de Villiers means Heino Kuhn will take the gloves, while Albie Morkel is also missing from the original squad due to injury. Wayne Parnell will struggle to make the final XI, while Ryan McLaren and Richard Levi are also in danger of missing out.
South Africa (possible) 1 Hashim Amla (capt), 2 Graeme Smith, 3 JP Duminy, 4 Colin Ingram, 5 David Miller, 6 Heino Kuhn (wk), 7 Johan Botha, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Rusty Theron, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
The absence of Brett Lee due to his bout of appendicitis guarantees a debut for Cummins. On a pitch that could offer some turn, Steve O'Keefe and Steven Smith are both likely to play. Aaron Finch is the extra batsman in the squad, but he will struggle to oust Shaun Marsh or David Hussey.
Australia (possible): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Steven Smith/Mitchell Marsh, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Steve O'Keefe, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Patrick Cummins, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Pitch and conditions
An early-season pitch at Newlands should be a touch on the slow side, so the spinners are likely to play an important role. The weather is expected to be fine and warm.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have won only one of their previous eight Twenty20 internationals, while South Africa have won six of their previous seven
- Australia's leading Twenty20 international wicket-taker is Mitchell Johnson, who was not considered good enough to be part of this squad
- Only three players from each side were part of the last Twenty20 between the two teams: Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and JP Duminy, along with David Warner, Cameron White and David Hussey
"Everybody's been given their room and space to have a lot of freedom when they play, and also to express themselves within the team environment. It's been a really nice few days for the guys to connect with each other."
Stand-in captain Hashim Amla is pleased with South Africa's preparation ahead of the Twenty20s
"We didn't play that well in Sri Lanka but in the same breath we weren't that far away either. I think we are heading in the right direction. We've got a very young squad together now and the more Twenty20 we play, the better we will be."
Australia captain Cameron White on his team's progress
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo