All change for hosts and visitors
South Africa v Australia, October 18, Centurion
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT, 23.30 EDT, 23.00 CDT, 20.30 WST)
Australia and South Africa have shared a theme of all change since both endured earlier World Cup exits than they had bargained for. Had the two teams faced each other in that tournament, it would have been with different captains, different coaches and arguably different approaches to the contest. In each case there is now also an element of the incomplete transition. Australia are touring with an interim coach, Troy Cooley, while Cricket Australia casts its net widely for a new man to fill the role. South Africa will be led by a stand-in captain in Hashim Amla while AB de Villiers continues his recovery from a broken finger.
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.
South Africa: LWWWL
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
- Australia have won seven of 11 matches at Centurion, and the venue provided an important stepping stone to success in the 2003 World Cup and the 2009 Champions Trophy. However the record against South Africa is a little more balanced at 3-2 in favour of the hosts.
- South Africa can draw all but level with Australia on the ICC ODI rankings with a 3-0 series sweep. The top-ranked Australians presently have a 14-point advantage over the Proteas.
"Having lost AB is massive, You cant replace a guy like AB overnight, that comes over years. It's a big loss for SA cricket, our middle order and batting all in all. There is probably pressure on the middle order but injuries are part of the game nowadays."
Mark Boucher on the absence of AB de Villiers
"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 ESPNcricinfo