|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Fantasy||Mobile|
October 18, 2011
A point of contrast between the two sides is the cricket they have played since the World Cup. South Africa have enjoyed an extended break from the game, allowing the new coach Gary Kirsten to settle into his position after leaving India at the conclusion of the World Cup. Though Australia also had a break after the cup, it was interspersed with a brief visit to Bangladesh where the visitors claimed a 3-0 sweep, then a successful tour of Sri Lanka where both the ODI and Test series were won by Michael Clarke's men.
Now Australia have the benefit of a deep and fully fit battery of fast bowlers, with the teenager Pat Cummins a most enticing new addition. South Africa must find the correct balance under Kirsten and Amla, though in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis and Amla himself there is one of the most accomplished senior groups in world cricket.
In the spotlight
Graeme Smith stepped down from the Twenty20 and ODI captaincy following the World Cup defeat, and for all his successes in Test cricket he had been unable to shake the unwanted "choking" tag from the team at major tournaments. A duck and 24 in the two T20 matches was not an outstanding return, and Smith will need to be at his best against an Australian attack that is clearly enjoying the pace and bounce on offer in South Africa after the trials of Sri Lanka's numerous unforgiving batting surfaces.
Michael Clarke showed tremendous poise and natural flair for captaincy on his first full tour in charge, but has acknowledged that the challenge will be far greater in South Africa. Added to his list of tasks on this trip is to hold together a highly transitional tour unit, with an interim coach and temporary selection panel, against opponents perfectly happy to exploit any weakness they can find. Clarke is also an exceptional player of spin but has been challenged by pace in the past, notably against England last summer. Steyn will be particularly keen to get at him.
Pitch and conditions
Centurion's surface has generally offered plenty of runs to batsmen, though there is also the possibility of bounce, movement and wickets for bowlers prepared to bend their backs. This may be even truer with a new ball being taken at each end as per the new ICC playing conditions.
South Africa's major selection doubt surrounds the place of the legspinner Imran Tahir, who excelled during the World Cup. He may take the place of Morne Morkel or Lonwabo Tsotsobe, though rain in the region may encourage the selection of three quicks.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla (capt), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Jean-Paul Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Johan Botha, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Shane Watson's hip complaint is expected to keep him out of the first ODI at least, presenting a chance for David Warner at the top of the order. The loss of Watson's allround skills should also provide an opening for Mitchell Marsh, while Pat Cummins may shade James Pattinson to earn an ODI debut following his T20 success.
Australia (probable) 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 David Warner, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Stats & Trivia
"There's definitely still a chance. We won't pick our team until tomorrow morning. If they are not, it's important to make a smart decision.."
Michael Clarke on Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh's injuries.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
|Comments have now been closed for this article
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper