South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion February 11, 2014

A mouth-watering pace battle awaits

146

Match facts

February 12-16, 2014
Start time 1030 local (0830GMT)

'South Africa are more ruthless than ever'

Big Picture

After Australia's remarkable Ashes clean-sweep, Michael Clarke praised his men but was firm in his resolve that the Australians would not rest until they were No.1 in the world. What better way to assess themselves than against the world's best? South Africa have occupied the top spot for a year and a half. Daylight is second. Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann will certainly have noted the way South Africa declined to chase a victory that seemed there for the taking against India at the Wanderers in December. But they should also note that South Africa's approach has led them to lose only one of their past 19 Tests. This is a team that has not lost a Test series for five years, home or away. That is a remarkable feat.

The last team to beat South Africa was Australia in early 2009. In South Africa. With Mitchell Johnson at his peak. In fact, since South Africa's readmission Australia are yet to lose a Test series in the country. That is a remarkable feat. Even the drawn two-Test battle in late 2011 was fascinating, featuring as it did Australia's all-out 47 in Cape Town followed by the emergence of a teenage Pat Cummins, Man of the Match in the follow-up victory in Johannesburg. Cummins will not be there this time, but the four highest-ranked fast bowlers in the world will be - and that does not even include Johnson. Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle are all in the ICC's top five Test bowlers, and together with Johnson and Morne Morkel will make for a captivating series.

Which team's batsmen will handle the pace assault best? Australia had a settled batting group through the Ashes but could have two new faces in Centurion, with the uncapped Alex Doolan favoured to debut and Shaun Marsh or Phillip Hughes also likely to play due to Shane Watson's injury. South Africa's main question is how to handle life after Jacques Kallis. The likely new No.4, Faf du Plessis, has already shown the Australians his credentials, almost single-handedly saving the Adelaide Test in 2012. And any team that can have the No.1 batsman in the world - AB de Villiers - coming in at three-down is a force to be reckoned with.

Form guide

(last five completed games most recent first)
South Africa WDWLW
Australia WWWWW

In the spotlight

Dale Steyn might be ranked second in the world to his team-mate Vernon Philander, but that is not necessarily the view Australia's batsmen will take. His high-quality, high-speed outswing will ask serious questions of an Australian line-up that remains vulnerable against the moving ball. The presence of two left-handers at the top of Australia's order might help them slightly, but if they have right-handers at Nos.3, 4 and 5, expect the edges to fly.

Back in 2009, Mitchell Johnson entered the tour of South Africa at his peak, having just broken Graeme Smith's hand in the Sydney Test and finding the rhythm and pace that has deserted him at times during his career. Five years later, he has it again. The reigning Allan Border Medallist and tormentor of England during the Ashes, Johnson has the potential to worry South Africa's batsmen like few other bowlers in the world. They might handle him better than England, but don't expect his impact to drop off too much.

Team news

For the first time in more than 18 years, South Africa must work out what to do without Kallis, a man who was two cricketers (at least) in one. Du Plessis appears set to move up to Kallis' No.4 spot, which opens up a place at No.7 that could be filled by either Wayne Parnell or Ryan McLaren. Parnell offers more pace and that might earn him a chance to play his first Test in nearly four years. However, there is also the possibility of Rory Kleinveldt being included. JP Duminy was battling tendonitis in his left wrist in the lead-up to the match but was recovering reasonably well.

South Africa (possible) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla 4 Faf du Plessis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 JP Duminy, 7 Wayne Parnell / Ryan McLaren, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel.

Watson's absence due to a calf injury means there will be two changes to Australia's batting order from the side that played in all five Ashes Tests. The guessing game is which two of Doolan, Marsh, Hughes and Moises Henriques will miss out? It seems likely that Australia will rely on their four-man attack in Centurion, which would leave Henriques on the bench. Doolan is set to debut at No. 3 and Marsh, who was picked ahead of Hughes in the original squad, looks likely to join him. This appeared to be confirmed by the national selector John Inverarity's consoling chat to Hughes late in Australia's final training session.

Australia (possible) 1 Chris Rogers, 2 David Warner, 3 Alex Doolan, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Shaun Marsh, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Nathan Lyon.

Pitch and conditions

Two days before the Test, the Centurion pitch had a white sort of shade to it but still bore some grass. There should be something there for the fast bowlers and the moisture in the air should also offer some assistance. Typical Highveld thunderstorms are expected to play a part throughout the match - last week, the Hennops River outside the ground burst its banks and the hotel nearby had to be evacuated.

Stats and trivia

  • Since Kallis made his Test debut in December 1995, South Africa have played only 18 Tests without him - an average of one per year

  • In six Tests in Centurion, Dale Steyn has taken 36 wickets at 17.61; Vernon Philander has 12 victims at 13.66 there from two Tests

  • If Australia win this series, they will move up to second place on the ICC's Test rankings

  • Chris Rogers has played 257 first-class matches but until this tour had never so much as visited South Africa, let alone played cricket there

  • Australia and South Africa have met only once in a Test in Centurion, in 1997, when Allan Donald took eight wickets in a South African win

Quotes

"If you're the No.1 team in the world, you have to be favourites. It's something we've become accustomed to. We worked very hard and went to some tough places to get that ranking and to defend it so we're comfortable with that."
Graeme Smith is happy for his men to be the front-runners.

"If we want to get back to being No. 1 in the world, we have to have success away from home, we have to beat the best teams, and as tough a challenge as it is we're excited about it."
Michael Clarke

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AussiePhoenix on February 12, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    This is going to be a cracker, so many top bowlers in one match - it will be real grinding hard fought cricket. Of course I want Oz to win, but I don't think many Australians honestly believe they will. The guys aren't afraid of losing, they'll be angry with themselves if they do, then try harder. They're a group of mongrels in a way, particularly batsmen. Have to dig and scrape for every little scrap. If they can just find a way of hanging in there, the Saffers may get frustrated, then our bowlers can really go to work. When you fight that hard, the unexpected is possible.

  • LJ253 on February 11, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    Will be a fierce contest. On paper south africa are 100% the better side, however an aussie side oozing with confidence and a knack for playing well in SA conditions evens it up a bit. Johnson is key. if he can get into the minds of the saffas like he did the poms, it will be very difficult. I believe now that johnson is bowling faster and more accurately than ever he will be a handful for right handers (Amla, de villiers, peterson etc) due to the awkward angle he generates for the short pitched delivery... and we all know what he can do to left handers (Smith...)

    1st test SA by a lot 2nd Draw 3rd Aussies by a whisker

  • on February 12, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    @ phtb - it is work day..

  • sk12 on February 12, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    "noted the way South Africa declined to chase a victory that seemed there for the taking against India" - but then how many teams would have even gone for the target (RPO more than 3.5 for more than 4 sessions) right from the word go like how SA did that game?? They shut shop only when they had 1.5 wickets left.

  • phtb on February 12, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    But there's hardly anyone at the ground watching it! It's no wonder CSA have been shafted by the ICC - they can't get people to the ground to watch one of the greatest sporting rivalries play itself out.

  • Iceman29 on February 12, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Looking forward to this series for a long time...especially waiting to see how Aussies performs in SA condition after their comfortable series win in "Home Conditions".....however I have some suspicion about SA batsmen...time will tell.

  • wanatawu on February 12, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Warner out bowl Steyn. beaty.

  • NALINWIJ on February 12, 2014, 8:45 GMT

    Disappointed that Hughes was not picked There is a chance someone will have to make way for Watson when he returns.

  • on February 12, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    Here we go! Time for chit chats is over! the ball and willow will do the talking from now on.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 12, 2014, 8:25 GMT

    Pretty surprised SA decided to bowl first, here's hoping that we don't see an Australian collapse... I think this first session is going to say a hell of a lot about the rest of the series. I haven't been this excited about a test match for such a very long time. See you all in 6 hours for some gloating or wound licking.

  • AussiePhoenix on February 12, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    This is going to be a cracker, so many top bowlers in one match - it will be real grinding hard fought cricket. Of course I want Oz to win, but I don't think many Australians honestly believe they will. The guys aren't afraid of losing, they'll be angry with themselves if they do, then try harder. They're a group of mongrels in a way, particularly batsmen. Have to dig and scrape for every little scrap. If they can just find a way of hanging in there, the Saffers may get frustrated, then our bowlers can really go to work. When you fight that hard, the unexpected is possible.

  • LJ253 on February 11, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    Will be a fierce contest. On paper south africa are 100% the better side, however an aussie side oozing with confidence and a knack for playing well in SA conditions evens it up a bit. Johnson is key. if he can get into the minds of the saffas like he did the poms, it will be very difficult. I believe now that johnson is bowling faster and more accurately than ever he will be a handful for right handers (Amla, de villiers, peterson etc) due to the awkward angle he generates for the short pitched delivery... and we all know what he can do to left handers (Smith...)

    1st test SA by a lot 2nd Draw 3rd Aussies by a whisker

  • on February 12, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    @ phtb - it is work day..

  • sk12 on February 12, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    "noted the way South Africa declined to chase a victory that seemed there for the taking against India" - but then how many teams would have even gone for the target (RPO more than 3.5 for more than 4 sessions) right from the word go like how SA did that game?? They shut shop only when they had 1.5 wickets left.

  • phtb on February 12, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    But there's hardly anyone at the ground watching it! It's no wonder CSA have been shafted by the ICC - they can't get people to the ground to watch one of the greatest sporting rivalries play itself out.

  • Iceman29 on February 12, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Looking forward to this series for a long time...especially waiting to see how Aussies performs in SA condition after their comfortable series win in "Home Conditions".....however I have some suspicion about SA batsmen...time will tell.

  • wanatawu on February 12, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Warner out bowl Steyn. beaty.

  • NALINWIJ on February 12, 2014, 8:45 GMT

    Disappointed that Hughes was not picked There is a chance someone will have to make way for Watson when he returns.

  • on February 12, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    Here we go! Time for chit chats is over! the ball and willow will do the talking from now on.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 12, 2014, 8:25 GMT

    Pretty surprised SA decided to bowl first, here's hoping that we don't see an Australian collapse... I think this first session is going to say a hell of a lot about the rest of the series. I haven't been this excited about a test match for such a very long time. See you all in 6 hours for some gloating or wound licking.

  • Mambahunter on February 12, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    It's going to be fascinating. The fast bowling battle is interesting. Only difference is we all know which Dale Steyn is gonna pitch up but which Mitch Johnson is going to pitch?

  • SA_Ahmadi on February 12, 2014, 8:18 GMT

    Ohhhh, Can't wait to watch the CLASH OF TITANS, Cricket Elclasico

  • disco_bob on February 12, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    Whoa, Smith wins the toss and bowls, I had a feeling that might happen and if it did it would be a mistake. Australia won't be too fearful considering the abysmal penetration of the SA bowling attack on a fast and bouncy Gabba pitch. I can only hope that the selectors have some secret knowledge about Doolan and Marsh. I'll stick my neck out and call Australia 4 down for 295 at stumps.

  • Big-Dog on February 12, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    Marsh has no form going in. Can't understand why he gets the nod over Hughes.

  • on February 12, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    @Andrew: All five if the batsmen backing up in this match after playing in the Ashes made at least one century in that series. And the tailenders have been making fifties. Game on!

  • on February 12, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    What a series this is going to be!! Have been counting down to today, and finally the 1st test is about to start.

    Deeds are about to speak much louder than predictions and commentary from the sidelines.

  • shot274 on February 12, 2014, 8:10 GMT

    When did Australia last have a one down batsman with a first class average of 37?!

  • wanatawu on February 12, 2014, 8:09 GMT

    Proteas bowl, Mclaren in for Kallis. Ozzies include Doolan and Marsh, good luck to both

  • Andre117 on February 12, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    Weak links in the Aussie side: Rogers (first time against SA), Doolan (recent record and stats makes me wonder what he's doing playing international cricket), Steve Smith (first time against SA), Shaun Marsh. Weak links in SA side: the Petersons, whoever replaces Kallis, Smith vs Johnson. If Smith and Peterson can survive the first 15 to 20 overs it will cause a crack in the Aussies' confidence.

  • on February 12, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    2-1 to Australia if Hughes plays.

    2-1 to South Africa if Marsh plays.

  • AnthonyMD on February 12, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    I am so looking forward to this series. I reckon South Africa have the better team, and better balanced team for that matter. But of late Australia have that intangible about them, a strong self belief and a ton of mongrel. Should be some classic hard fought cricket. Can't wait for it to start.

  • black_bird on February 12, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    Another whitewash is waiting for saffers, as india almost humiliated them?.

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on February 12, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    @ Greatest_Game its hard to take your comments seriously because your opinion is so one sided, you have been at it all day and its the same comment over and over, your comments about Johnson's "bog average" record in the series you mention at an average of around 30 is laughable, that's around the same average as Anderson and swans whole career, im pretty sure they are better than "bog average". Anyway as an Aussie I would love Aus to win in SA but I don't think its going to happen, but there is always hope.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on February 12, 2014, 7:35 GMT

    Australia to win the series 3-0. Form side with loads more cricket under their belts and we don't give wins away like they did against India. Remember your predictions before the Ashes.....

  • prij on February 12, 2014, 7:30 GMT

    Eagerly waiting for match to begin. hoping it to awesome contest between bat and ball and hopefully not one sided.

  • pramudamu on February 12, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    I put the Aussies an edge ahead of South Africa based on their performance against the beleaguered English team. South Africa's performance against India has not been very world class even though they won the series against the latter. I clearly see South Africa's batting line-up being tested this time around with the contest going to be neck to neck..This is a battle of the supreme.

  • zenboomerang on February 12, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    @Greatest_Game - Laughing at your gloating (& shouting) that Johnson is the worst bowler in Oz, I guess we'll all find out soon enough...

    "SA destroyed Johnson & Starc that year" - again lol... They only played in 1 Test & got 6 & 8 wkts respectively. Your exaggeration is hilarious...

    Seeing as you're bragging about Johnsons poor SA stats, why not bring up his batting average @71.2 ? - Or how about Philanders bowling stats in Oz averaging @49.75 - Stats only ever tell half the story & sometimes much less than that...

  • demonjaya on February 12, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    No need more words.SA will win the series.Sure.

  • Henry_Crun on February 12, 2014, 7:15 GMT

    I agree that on paper SA should win this series, just as on paper England should have won the Ashes. In reality, both Amla and Duminy were hopelessly out of form in the Indian Tests, SA have no Kallis this series, and they don't have a batsman who can single handedly win a Test in the first session. An earlier poster said that Aus. would play like India did: leave everything outside off stump. For better or worse, I can assure SA that Warner will not be doing that, and Morkel in particular may be in for a bit of a hammering. If Warner comes off, Aus 2-1.

  • on February 12, 2014, 7:02 GMT

    Is it my imagination but before the Ashes weren't Aussie at one of their lowest points ever? They have a decent pace attack but other than Clarke their batting line up looks bare. When Warner is your second best batsman and Watson is missed you know you're in trouble.

  • Joole on February 12, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    There seems to be a lot being said about Australia having momentum. The Aussies have won one series in a row. It was against a terrible England team with only one world class bowler and under performing batsmen all coming from a tense change room. Not to mention the series was at home. Under these conditions the Aussie bowlers looked like world beaters and may yet prove to be so but that they declare themselves to be the best attack in the world based on one series is ridiculous. More concerning is that the batsmen did not look good even against a frazzled England. SA on the other hand have not lost a series since 2008/09. That is true momentum without all the arrogance that too often comes from Australia. The last time Australia won 2 tests series in a row was 2011/12. The last time Mitch Johnson played well in two series in a row was before records began.....

  • DragonCricketer on February 12, 2014, 6:48 GMT

    I wish Faulkner was available. Better go with a batsmen not Henriques. Battle of the fast bowlers they say. Whoever bats best will win. Better have an extra batsmen. I know Henriques got a late century in an ordinary Shield season so far. His bowling does not balance his mediocre batting. I think he will get carted by SA. Go an extra batsmen and hope that Faulkner gets well soon.

  • on February 12, 2014, 6:35 GMT

    If you aren't in front of your TV for Day 1, you have some screws loose. This is going to be a cracker! PROTEAS!

  • Greatest_Game on February 12, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    @ crickeymate oberved "@ greatest game, I think electric loco was thinking about the 2009 series and not the 2011 series where you quoted the stats from. "

    I don't think loco knows much about either - he is all excited about Johnson since the Ashes - in which Mitch was magnificent - and knows Johnson did well in SA in 09, but then extrapolates the 2 to assert that SA is "Johnson's fave" and blah blah blah. Fact is Johnson has has a good series in SA, and a very poor series in SA, & overall in SA averages 34.47 at SR 63.5. That is hardly X factor stuff, is it.

    Johnson might well turn it on and decimate SA - he is remarkably gifted & can be devastating. However, history would suggest it is a toss up what will happen. There is no guarantee he will be good or bad. He has never been consistent. Most Aus fans were calling for him to NOT be selected for the Ashes. Go back & read the posts - he was vilified by his own.

    Anything could happen in the series - nothing is guaranteed.

  • Greatest_Game on February 12, 2014, 6:21 GMT

    @ LoungeChairCritic is struggling with his memory:". In the last series between the two sides injury played a big part. From memory, we were a bowler short in both the last Brisbane test and Adelaide test."

    In Brisbane SA lost Duminy before he took the field. He snapped his achilles tendon after day 1, but had not batted yet. SA had selected 4 quicks && Duminy was supposed to be the spinner. SA played the test without a bowler - not Aus

    In Adelaide Aus lost Pattinson to a side strain after he bowled 9.1 fruitless overs - 0/41. He was not in great form though. In Brisbane he took 5/151 - ave 30.2, SR 63.6. He may have been carrying a niggle into the match as he bowled short spells.

    In the same Adelaide match SA lost Kallis after 3.3 overs in which he took 2 for 19 ave 9.5, SR 10.5! Kallis took Cowan with his 3rd ball, and bowled Ponting with his 12th ball - the delivery that so confused Ricky he fell over!

    SA were a bowler in both matches. Aus were a bowler short in Adelaide.

  • mamboman on February 12, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    Steyn and Philander are a fearsome challenge for the Aussies - but I predict it will be Morkel they will struggle most against. He is very under-rated next to his superstar brethren but he is a versatile and hard working bowler who always has a plan B, which will come in handy when the going gets tough. I believe this series will be his time to shine.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on February 12, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Fingers crossed Ozcricketwriter never gets a job as a Cricket Writer. Should stick to fictional writing.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 12, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    @Lliam Clearly the problem right now is there isn't any cricket to watch so all we can do is either try not to think about it or come here and rant and conjecture about things. Only a couple hours to go though so I'm sure the tune here will change shortly.

  • on February 12, 2014, 5:55 GMT

    Shane watson's absence will make the real difference, not because of his batting but as an allrounder. He had the habbit of picking up crucial wickets.So the Kallis abscence is nullified. at least for this test.

  • Greatest_Game on February 12, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @ Ozcricketwriter "Please don't publish Greatest_Game's comments! He has no clue what he is talking about and is just here to bash other posters!"

    Not "other posters," just the ignorant ones. Like you. I never post a stat without checking it first. In South Africa, Johnson averages 34.47 at SR 63.5. That is not bashing any poster, those are his stats. If you post rubbish, & I refute it with the truth, that is not bashing you, that is correcting your errors, which are common. Very very common. I don't post many opinions, I post mostly facts.

    Johnson had a great tour of SA in 09, and an awful tour in 11. Should I suppress the information about his awful tour - 3 wickets at ave 85 - just because you have suddenly gone all gaga about Johnson? You post reams of unfounded, unsupported opinion, & when you are shown to be clearly wrong, you get into a huff. Well, tough for you but I shall continute to refute any rubbish you post. That is not bashing YOU - that is setting the record straight

  • VinodGupte on February 12, 2014, 5:41 GMT

    mouth-watering. clash of titans finally. i hope it is not one-sided like many series in the recent past.

  • Leggie on February 12, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    Exciting to see such a star studded bowling line-up, and I'm sure it's going to be a cracker of a series. Every run scored will be worth in gold, and this series should give both teams an opportunity to know what batting future lies ahead of them.

  • on February 12, 2014, 5:06 GMT

    This is battle of two strongest teams.

  • on February 12, 2014, 4:46 GMT

    God forbid Clarke praise his team after inflicting one of the biggest defeats in history on some of the best English players of all time. Haddin bailed out Australia in the same way as Bell did the prior series and I don't recall anyone thinking that that Ashes series doesn't count. It is always amusing by people who bring up statistics from 2+ years ago to justify why current players will fail, but ignore much more relevant statistics like 37 @ 14 which was one of the great fast bowling performances of all time. This is looking more and more like the rabid English cheer squad headed by FFL to cherrypick stats why Australia will lose over the past 12 months. Here's what this current series comes down to: whichever fast bowling outfit gets up on the day as they are both capable of running through any team. Can everyone just stop with the rubbish and nonsense and get down to watching some great cricket? Thanks.

  • on February 12, 2014, 4:42 GMT

    Aus may initiate nice revolution w their own cricket team selection, as it is now due. Try; Rog, Warn, Dools, Hughes, Clk, Smt, Mar, Had, Jonno, Patto & Harro! Major point being sufficient 'spin' can come from Smt, Clk & Warns. As nice a concept as it has been to have specialty spinners, like technology progresses & the human population w their knowledge & skills, so must cricketers. So, batters must try bowl (at least spin) & spinners must bat well. Quicks can smash 'em well & learn to smash 'em as they like, better. Spinners must adapt too. Go us all!!

  • hmmmmm... on February 12, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    For a start - all stats on johnson should now be split into - with tash/no tash! Any SAf commenters have not seen tash so please don't quote figures from years ago.

    Regardless of the hype, I feel philander/steyn/morkel and harris/johnson/siddle are about even, the big difference will be Lyon - maybe not with wickets but Petersen will get hammered in comparison...our top order just has to survive the first 25 overs. Given the disparity in batting lineups, we will need it!

  • Ozcricketwriter on February 12, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    Please don't publish Greatest_Game's comments! He has no clue what he is talking about and is just here to bash other posters!

    For the record, Johnson has a magnificent batting record in South Africa too, where he averages over 70. And, in spite of that one poor tour, he still has a very good bowling record, and he was player of the series back in 2009. He is now in even better form than he was then. Expect him to be the best bowler on show.

    Doolan and Marsh will weaken the Australian side giving South Africa the edge in this test but if Australia do somehow win it then they will be favourites to take out the series 3-0.

  • snipercricket on February 12, 2014, 4:21 GMT

    Elgar/De Kock should play instead of Mclaren/Parnell

  • anver777 on February 12, 2014, 4:15 GMT

    "Battle of the Pace Batteries" it will be an interesting match !!!!!

  • Roshini on February 12, 2014, 4:05 GMT

    South Africans are No # 1 for a reason and mark my words the much over hyped Aussies will have their work cut out by Steyn and Co..A pace pack that is head and shoulders above England. Aussies looked dominating all of a sudden due to very poor England. Anyway a bitter lesson awaits Aussies this time around.

  • Sharath274 on February 12, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    This is the latest and best rivalry for me.. really looking forward to seeing some great fast bowling from either sides..hope the weather stays fine..

  • himanshu.team on February 12, 2014, 3:35 GMT

    Forget the rankings; These are the two best test sides in the world and they are playing in fast and seaming conditions. Nothing could be more mouth watering than this. None of the team is going to give even an inch to the opposition and both are known for their tenacity and fighting spirit. I can't wait for the contest to begin (A welcome distraction for an Indian fan from all the drama unfolding and our own team playing so miserably)

  • landl47 on February 12, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    A battle of two veteran sides to see who can last the longest. Both look better bowling than batting, neither side has much quality coming up and both will be desperate to make a statement while the over-30s are still around. SA must have the edge in home conditions, but if Australia's bowlers can hold it together as they did against England, then the absence of Kallis and Amla's lean spell might spell trouble for the Saffers.

    Great to see the two current best sides head-to-head in a test series. It should be fascinating cricket.

  • Square-Driver15 on February 12, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    This is going to be a good fight, at least better than the punching bag demo that was Australia vs England. South Africa have absolutely nothing to prove being the only undefeated test team for a while now, whereas Australia have everything to prove on their overseas ability, after a 3-0 loss to England and a 5-0 whitewash to India. However, the Australians blood will be flowing with freshly injected confidence after humiliating the Poms at home. South Africa are still the favorites, since many a times Australia found themselves in trouble after their top 1-4 batsmen got out cheaply to the English bowlers, until Haddin initiated a rescue mission. Said missions won't be easy vs. Steyn and co, so the Australian top-mid batsmen need to get adjusted very quickly.

  • mysay on February 12, 2014, 3:17 GMT

    Now does T20 outrank a Test of this magnitude. Sure to be a great series. I think Australia will surely have the edge with MJ coming in the form he is in, and the top five having fortunes in the Ashes, not to mention MC showing signs of big runs. SA's key will have to be the batting, as I do not see the bowling (Good as it maybe) making that much of an impact as their counterparts would. Anyway enough of my rubbish, let's enjoy the heavyweights in action.

  • on February 12, 2014, 2:55 GMT

    As an Australian fan, I'd love to see Australia win. However I don't think it's realistic yet. We have a young developing team, and I truly think we have the makings of a team that can eventually gain back the number 1 ranking.

    I just hope that if/when we are beaten, that no one overreacts, as a series such as this will act as a right of passage for many of these young players- win or lose. To be the best, you must play against the best. Good luck!

  • on February 12, 2014, 2:55 GMT

    As an Australian fan, I'd love to see Australia win. However I don't think it's realistic yet. We have a young developing team, and I truly think we have the makings of a team that can eventually gain back the number 1 ranking.

    I just hope that if/when we are beaten, that no one overreacts, as a series such as this will act as a right of passage for many of these young players- win or lose. To be the best, you must play against the best. Good luck!

  • wakemeupbeforeyougogo on February 12, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    I can't wait to Aussie and Johnson get their beans!

  • on February 12, 2014, 1:55 GMT

    @Madan : England had no matches between the two Ashes series. They were only battered and brusied because the Aussies battered and bruised them.

  • JOHNCSPACE on February 12, 2014, 1:44 GMT

    Enjoyed the last test result India V New Zealand guess who won...Regards this series, again "grapes are sour", Aussie this Aussie that..how about just enjoying the game and take each result on merit. Australia will play , and play well and hard and is the only team that can win any series in modern day cricket. They continue to play positive cricket according to the conditions and the result will be obvious, contraray to all you bashers sit back and enjoy the game.

  • MarshalSuchet on February 12, 2014, 1:33 GMT

    Australian batting looks weak. Doolan at No. 3. Disaster. Why isn't Clarke at 3 ? Doolan at 3 will delay Clarke from the crease for barely a few minutes.

  • on February 12, 2014, 1:32 GMT

    Great battle and real feast to cricket lovers

  • wellrounded87 on February 12, 2014, 1:28 GMT

    @thruthecovers Not sure what series you were watching but Australia dominated the SA quicks at the Gabba and Adelaide. SA did better in Per but that had more to do with AB and Amla than the quicks.

    I'm not saying Aus has a better batting lineup though, we don't. But you have a very skewed memory of the last series between these 2 teams.

    @Greatest Game You are right and you are wrong. Stats lie and Johnson is a much better bowler than what he was last time around. He also played a huge role in our last victory over SA in SA both with bat and ball.

    But you are right Harris is the real deal, let's hope he can stay fit.

  • on February 12, 2014, 1:26 GMT

    In my view this is the real Test #1 and #2. India is in between, however, India's ranking is fake. India plays more tests in India which the always invariably win. India should be ranked below England and Pakistan in Test Cricket. 1. SA, 2. Australia 3. England 4. Pakistan 5. India 6. NZ 7. Sri-Lanka 8. West Indies.

  • TheBigBoodha on February 12, 2014, 1:21 GMT

    Greatest-game, Johnson has been doing this pretty much for the last eight months as far as I can tell. It's no fluke. He has worked out his bowling action and release point and so on. That is clear. There is no reason to think he will ever go back to the way he was. You can't unlearn what you have come to understand. Johnson may bowl the odd poor or average spell, but over three tests he will run through batting lineups at least a few times. This will especially be the case if SA dish up their regular green tops. I predict that the dry, parched tracks that mysteriously greeted the Indians will have disappeared and the green eye of the beast will be looking them right in the eye. It's a pity that CA doesn't have the power of the BCCI. Which other board has the power to tell opposition boards what kind of pitches to prepare for them? Of course I might be wrong, and the fact that dry turners magically appeared for the Indians was a mere fluke - a once-in-a-decade magical occurrence in SA.

  • Stat1977 on February 12, 2014, 0:56 GMT

    It's just a big hype about Jhonson.he just performed against England in home doesn't mean that he will do it everywhere.Go SA go..You can!

  • gibbs.175 on February 12, 2014, 0:53 GMT

    Aus is little ahead over SA here ,South africa has batting problem ....?

  • on February 12, 2014, 0:52 GMT

    I believe Australia will win, as I've said earlier here. They will win the battle of the pace bowlers and while Australia's batting has been brittle they have a long tail and this will win them the series and the passive captaincy of Graeme Smith won't help SA. Clarke's proactive captaincy will help Australia by contrast.

  • lisadb99 on February 12, 2014, 0:42 GMT

    "The last team to beat South Africa was Australia in early 2009." Then you go on to say it was a drawn series in 2011. It was 1 all. So Sth A won 1 and Aus WON 1. So it wasn't 2009

  • cricket_ahan on February 12, 2014, 0:31 GMT

    South Africe minus Kallis is a materially different team - not only was he a quality bowler, but as a batsman, he could make big scores and had a rock solid defence. We've seen many batting collapses in recent years when quality bowling is on display - Kallis is one of those that had the ability to defend and stop those from happening in the event of an early wicket. Still, South Africa def feel like favourites - home conditions, Steyn/Philander's ability to swing the ball at pace, high-quality "in-form" batsmen, and (unlike Eng/Ind/WI/SL/Pak) a tail that can seriously bat (esp Philander). For mine, Australia's trump card is Mitch Johnson - if he can bring the same level of intimidation as in the most-recent Ashes series, SAf will definately have their hands full.

  • on February 12, 2014, 0:13 GMT

    First-class batting averages for Parnell & McLaren--around 20/22. Not good enough for no 7 in test cricket. Albie Morkel is 32, but McLaren is 31 anyway. Albie's batting avg? 45 in first class cricket, and over 200 wickets under 30. Elgar has not batted well enough.

  • crickeymate on February 12, 2014, 0:02 GMT

    @ greatest game, I think electric loco was thinking about the 2009 series and not the 2011 series where you quoted the stats from. Which Mitch will turn up remains to be seen. I hope it's the 2009 one so that he can take some of the smugness away from some South African supporters. May the best team win.

  • LoungeChairCritic on February 11, 2014, 23:46 GMT

    I would be feeling a little more confident if Watson or Faulkner was in the side. Whenever Ryan Harris is in the side I always get nervous that he could get injured at any time. In the last series between the two sides injury played a big part. From memory, we were a bowler short in both the last Brisbane test and Adelaide test. In Adelaide, both Siddle and Hilfy were bowled to exhaustion in effort to win that match. Du Plessis was magnificant. Due to injury we virtually had a new bowling attack at the WACA and lost the series even though we were in a good position to win the 1st two. Hopefully Alex Kontouris will work some wonders and keep Harris on the park for the series. He has already said that he will go under the knife post series to fix an existing cartilage injury.

  • OneEyedAussie on February 11, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    If Australia decide to go with 6 specialist batsmen then there will be a lot of pressure on Lyon. I expect the SA batsmen to really attack him, but conversely if he bowls well he could have a big haul on his hands.

  • Shaggy076 on February 11, 2014, 23:31 GMT

    Really looking forward to this series will be interesting to see if Harris and Johnson can replicate the quality of Steyn and Philander. The only dampener on the series for mine, is Australia about to select Shaun Marsh who is completely unworthy of selection. Its a bit of an empty feeling watching him bat, hoping he scores runs but knowing that he has been gifted an opportunity that should have gone to someone else.

  • Big_Chikka on February 11, 2014, 22:59 GMT

    ps, why australia had one good series against an embattled and internally sick england, saffas don't have the same disease just now.

  • Big_Chikka on February 11, 2014, 22:57 GMT

    a genuine tussle, indeed mouthwatering, and above all an opportunity for south africa to affirm their no 1 spot. i predict south africa will win the series............2-1

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on February 11, 2014, 22:25 GMT

    This series certainly has the potential to make the Ashes look like a mere ping-pong tournament! I somehow doubt the South Africans will put up such a lethargic performance as England did.

  • on February 11, 2014, 22:16 GMT

    This will be an interesting series. SA haven't lost a series in 5 years and Aus haven't won a test match, forget series, away from home in more than a year. Australia's fast bowling looks menacing, though Mitchell Johnson is always one game away from a meltdown (form wise, not fitness wise). The batting will have two new faces at the top, and the middle order seems weak in spite of Clarke, as they have with Steve Smith playing instead of a genuine batsman at 5. Lyon will hardly be a factor. With SA, bowling will always be sharp as ever, but with Kallis gone, the middle order could be a concern. Du Plessis needs to find consistency. But the bottom line is, as the article itself says, South Africa is first, then there is daylight at no.2. Australia are nowhere close to South Africa, it is just a question of how wide the gulf is. Only chance for Australia is if South Africa have internal problems and meltdown, as England did which made Aus look ten times better than they really were.

  • on February 11, 2014, 22:08 GMT

    No one has mentioned Marchant De Lange, if he is fit - i last saw him in last years champions league & was bowling 93mph +, he would be leathal on those wickets

  • Julian_Vella on February 11, 2014, 22:06 GMT

    Geez i really hope if Shaun Marsh is picked he bats @ 6 and not 3 or 4, I'm a big fan of Marsh but he is not suited to bat in the top 4 in test cricket. I see him more like a 'Michael Hussey' type player and would be better suited to batting in the middle order .....

    Doolan is a specialist 3 so he should be 1st drop and MJ Clarke is the best batin the team so he has the number 4 spot, I've been hearing talk he will drop back down the order to 5 which I believe is the wrong move he is the captain with the best technique he cant be hiding down the order and sacrificing poor Marsh up the top again ......

    If Marsh comes in before Clarke I'm sorry but he is being set up to fail again .....

  • gham on February 11, 2014, 21:40 GMT

    My personal view is that South Africa will beat Australia 3-0 very easily and comfortably. It is Just the matter of time.

  • on February 11, 2014, 21:02 GMT

    Finally a matchup worth watching..India vs SA was a joke!

  • thruthecovers on February 11, 2014, 20:33 GMT

    @ sunandsea...In fact, if you think back objectively to the Proteas' last 10-odd Test matches, it is quite evident that they have specific bowling plans for each and every batsmen of note in the opposition team. Think Morkel setting up KP, Strauss etc. More often than not it comes together too, like Hanibal used to say. It poses problems on the day when the plans doesn't work, which I guess you were trying to get at. This is where Kallis' true value as a bowler will be missed, in my opinion. He was a renowned partnership breaker. Their plan when the batting does get on top of them is to restrict and make them work for runs (Eng 1st Innings at the Oval). And even this might not always work (Aus Brisbane and Adelaide). One thing is for sure though, more often than not they will find a way. If the plans work the opposition usually is in trouble. If not and they're able to restrict, there is always the 2nd innings. And if all else fails, well, then they'll just have to 'faf' it.

  • on February 11, 2014, 19:54 GMT

    Looking forward to this series and pace attack will be nice to watch as world class bowlers on show and hope the weather is nice and will be glued to the sky sports for next 5days

  • thruthecovers on February 11, 2014, 19:53 GMT

    Everyone is licking their lips re the match-up of the 2 bowling attacks, which is wrong in my opinion. It should realy be looked at as the SA batting line-up vs the Aus bowling attack and vice versa. Looked at it this way, it becomes a fairly simple equation from there. No one in their right minds would give the Aus batting line-up lower odds to outlast the SA bowling attack than the other way around. The absence of Kallis is a big factor, but the SA top 5 will prove yet again a very hard nut to crack. Harder than their counter parts.

    And btw...@sunandsea. Donald's "be-aggressive-and-bowl-fast" approach, as according to you, not only worked wonders the last time these 2 teams met, but there have been hardly a batting line-up on this planet that could hold any meaningful resistance over an entire series for the argh, I don't know, the last 4 years or so. But I guess everyone's an expert nowadays.

    SA 2-0

  • on February 11, 2014, 19:44 GMT

    I guess the Aussies are reading too much into a victory over a battered and bruised England... the saffers will be much harder to beat with the kind of line up they have... never mind kallis s absence - he was not the player he was anyway; steyn philander and morkel are more than enough to bowl out the Aussies considering that they are going to have 2 new faces in the XI....most of the Aussies are confidence players and if the saffers can break the rhythm of Johnson then its gonna be pretty hard for the Aussies.

  • on February 11, 2014, 19:17 GMT

    Have the selectors or coach ever explained why Kleinveldt is in the squad ahead of Abbott, who took 9 wkts on debut against Pak?

  • Greatest_Game on February 11, 2014, 19:07 GMT

    @ electric_loco_WAP4 is on the wrong track again. He writes ".But the big 'X- factor' in the game today -1 and only Mitch with his fiery 95mph l/arm swing- on his fave. SA pitches as always giving lot of help to the quicks is in the Aussies possession .He will be the big diff. ,another MoS awaits him ."

    The last time Mitch bowled on his "fave SA pitches" he averaged 85, & was further from the Man of the Series Award than Quinton de Kock, who was in school! Mitch had NO fiery left arm swing, just easy left arm pies, & was the WORST Aus bowler of the series.

    Face it, you base your assumptions on headlines, not cricket's records which you conveniently ignore. Playing IN SA - Johnson's "fave" as you call it - he averages 34.47 at SR 63.5, less than bog average. 9 innings, 19 wickets, no 5 fors. Whoa … fearsome club bowling figs.

    Forget the headlines. Rhino Harris is the real deal. Career ave 21.56, SR 46. If you knew what you were talking about, you'd talk about Harris!

  • on February 11, 2014, 18:42 GMT

    @greatest_game.. well said!alviro and jp out, (Robbie p has more guts imo)de kock and Hendricks in....that would be an adequate way to fill a kallis size hole.

  • Greatest_Game on February 11, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    @ Sultan2007 thinks "in modern cricket, there is no team that plays genuine pace well and comfortably…. So the western press needs to lay off the sub continent teams."

    Stop making excuses for, or raising the topic of, SC teams here. We hear that "SA cannot play spin." Now you say "SA cannot play pace." How did SA get to be #1 they can't play pace or spin?

    SA national cricket is dominated by genuine pace bowling, on quick, hard tracks - the bowling they grow up, & thrive on, & play every match.

    In 2012, before SA's series in Eng, debate raged about "the best" attack, much like today. The English attack, pronounced as "the best in the world" by Eng media & management, took 2 for 637 dec in test 1. Amla 311* Kallis 182* Smith 131…

    SA destroyed Johnson & Starc that year, at Aus' quickest venue, Perth. Amla scored 196 at SR 88.68. ABdV scored 169 at SR 91.84. Smith scored 84 at SR 84.

    These guys can decimate genuine pace, and this series has NOTHING AT ALL to do with SC teams.

  • stormy16 on February 11, 2014, 18:17 GMT

    SA must play Elgar at #7 as the Mclaran/Parnell option is here nor there against good bowling attacks. I would only opt for this against lessor teams but the concern about Aus is the second new ball having to be faced by Mclaren/Parnel against Johnson and co. That could be the opening that give Aus the advantage. Interesting 5 of the bowlers are in the top 10 but difference for me SA batting with #1 and 2. Besides the stats, Smith and Faf along with Amla and AB outrun the Aus top order anyday and will be the deciding factor. Unless the Aus batting can keep the SA attack at bat they will struggle to hold out SA.

  • on February 11, 2014, 18:15 GMT

    I will definitely keep my eyes glued to the TV screen. Two sides featuring world class fast bowlers! Lets see how the series begins! I won't say much now!

  • SunAndSea on February 11, 2014, 18:06 GMT

    This will be a further test of Alan Donald's ability as a bowling coach. He has always had a 'be-aggressive-and-bowl-fast' outlook, something I feel the Australian batsmen are able to deal with comfortably. This series will show whether Donald can get his bowlers to out-think the visiting batsmen.

  • on February 11, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    This is going to be one of the best series we have seen for quite a while.

  • Browndynamite7 on February 11, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    The contest between Johnson and Steyn is going to be mouth-watering, i am so excited for this series

  • SkyBlueAndy on February 11, 2014, 17:41 GMT

    Let's face it, England were pants and the Aussies have got a bit excited and now, after one successful home series believe that they are a world force, lol. Bet that the SA quicks are licking their lips and who knows which Mitch will turn up. Anyone other than the most myopic Aussie expects an easy SA victory.

  • on February 11, 2014, 17:41 GMT

    @Greatest_Game Totally agree. Mitch Johnson is a handful when he get it right, but all those jumping on the bandwagon about his Ashes performance and calling him the world's number 1 bowler need to remember Dale Steyn has been doing that sort of job day after day for the past 6 years. And DylanBrah, as good as Mitches figures during the Ashes were, Vernon Philander averaged about the same as that for his first 2 seasons of test cricket.

    Looking forward to the series, go SA!

  • Greatest_Game on February 11, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    @ neiljturner wrote "My feeling is that South Africa have got the balance wrong here. They are effectively selecting five specialist bowlers; neither Parnell (22.34) nor McLaren (30.63) has a first class batting average that is high enough to consider them as test-quality #7 batsmen. #8, sure, but not a #7."

    SA are not selecting 5 specialist bowlers. Neither Parnell nor McLaren is a specialist bowler. Neither makes the team as a bowler OR a batsman.

    SA should drop Robbie P and select B Hendricks & Q de Kock. Both are in incredible form, and a 4 man pace attack will suit SA better at Centurion than Robbie's "spin." In fact it is a toss up between who is the better batsman & who is the better spinner between Robbie & JP. Stick in either - there is not much difference. Just select Hendricks & de Kock. That would be far and away SA's best team, and Aus would have a hell of a battle on their hands against that lineup.

    Of course SA's selectors will stick to their "formula."

  • smh1 on February 11, 2014, 17:32 GMT

    My dear Mr. Faridi, there is nothing that compares to the last day tension of a great test match, certainly not t20. T20 is like the Mars bar to Test cricket's Godiva; each has its place and time, but one is the highest expression of craft and the other is a quick hit of sugar and excitement. You cannot seriously make a one to one comparison.

  • Sultan2007 on February 11, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Much as I rate SA highly, this may not be so easy for them with Kallis gone. This is the first time they are going have to go in without a luxury of that additional bowler. Which means serious challenges with picking the 4th bowler. Will it still be Peterson? And then the bigger decision. Will they play a 4th quick. Huge difference palying with 3 quicks Vs 4. The entire rotation strategy has to undergo change

  • on February 11, 2014, 17:19 GMT

    This series is going to be fascinating for Cricket lovers. I think South Africa on paper has a better side and if they play up to their potential they should win. SA's bowling line up has done well not only in South Africa but in difficult bowling conditions like UAE and their batting line is also impressive.

    Australia is a team whose bowlers are inform but they are probably depending to much on Mitchell Johnson. If he does not bowl well, then SA can handle the other bowlers without much problem. Problem will be Australia's batting. Question is can they handle Steyn, Phillander & Morkel. The only thing which favors Australia is their fighting spirit and toughness. Australia has killer instincts and if they win they will rule the Test Arena for next few years.

  • Greatest_Game on February 11, 2014, 17:18 GMT

    @ DylanBrah. Johnson's Ashes figures are impressive. Equally impressive are the the series where he was awful - like an average of 85 on his last visit to SA. For some REALLY impressive figures, try Steyn's 6 for 8 last year - in that match he took 11 for 60, ave 5.454 & his series ave was, in 3 matches, 20 wickets @ 12.9, SR 34.6.

    Everybody has good matches, & good ones. Johnson - career ave 28.33, SR 51.5 - has as many bad as good, maybe more bad than good, in contrast to say Philander. - career ave 18, SR 39.6. Remember his VERY FIRST test when he took 5 for 15, ave 3, SR 8.4 as Aus battled their way to 47 all out in their 2nd inns? In the same match Johnson took 1 for 87 - ave 87, SR 96.

    One swallow does not a summer make. One mustache does not a bowler make. You are all excited about Johnson, but he's facing SA, not Eng. He's bowling to real batsmen.

    Ryan Harris is Aus' best, & most dangerous bowler. Give HIM the credit he is due. He WILL be tough to face. Midge is Midge.

  • smudgeon on February 11, 2014, 17:12 GMT

    Interesting time ahead - a four bowler attack (with Steve Smith's leggies thrown in to give someone a rest?) is going to find it hard if the SA batsmen get set, which could well happen. They'll want to bat first (and bat long) or strike hard in the first session if they're bowling, because long spells don't work for Johnson, and if Harris' knee goes (it's actually overdue, isn't it?) they're in trouble. Pity James Faulkner isn't fit, I would have bumped Haddin up the order and Faulkner next in - he's a handy bat, and the extra bowler would have been very useful. But it seems we're likely to see Marsh (what?) and Doolan (fair call) in there and some fireworks from both bowling attacks. SA still have the best hand here, but I think after the Ashes, the Aussies feel they have something to prove to the worl...that it wasn't just a 5-0 fluke!

  • on February 11, 2014, 16:53 GMT

    Let's hope for the Best, we get an uninterrupted Test series unlike the Ashes in England which gave a Negative 3-0 result for Australia when they were unfortunate and the series was much closer than what the End result suggested. No predictions on the series till the last day in Cape Town , since Both these sides are absolutely matched up front, pace-to-pace. Few years back Shane Warne made the diff, since SA failed to handle him.In all, both these teams capable of counterattack, so expecting a 2-1 or 1-1(if Rain intervenes) unlike the lopsided Ashes where England had no clue to after being 2-0 at Adelaide. Good luck Aus...Good luck SAfrica...

  • Lotr3 on February 11, 2014, 16:49 GMT

    SA should consider reducing AB's workload in Kallis's absence, leave him as a specialist bastman at 5, Duminy at 6 and a specialst keeper at 7 with 4 front line bowlers. Could work in thier favor. Great series in the making.

  • live_for_cric on February 11, 2014, 16:38 GMT

    i think Australia has what it takes to win this contest.....i say this placing my judgement on the basis of the ind vs sa series.... the only reason india didnt win the first was coz dey didnt have a bowling unit capable of taking 20 wickets.... their batsmen on the other hand showed world class ablity and gave sa a real go for their money...coming back to this series.... u know wat i am going to say now...australia has the bowling to not only take 20 wickets but take them in relatively less time and conceding fewer runs... add to it their over all batting performance in the ashes seires and the retirement of kallis and u know wat i am talking about....so aussies certainly can win dis one...

  • SR84 on February 11, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    After deflating the Indians and their artificially engineered reputation, it would be lovely to see South Africa make Australia run for cover with their tails between their legs as well!

    Down with the big three!

  • SevereCritic on February 11, 2014, 16:24 GMT

    It depends a lot on how much lateral movement Steyn and Vernon can generate. Aussies are very good with pace and bounce-- but they struggle when balls moving laterally. Even Clarke is often guilty of fishing outside the off stump early in his innings. While the bowling lineup of the two sides are fairly evenly matched-- clearly SA has the more superior batting.

  • neiljturner on February 11, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    My feeling is that South Africa have got the balance wrong here. They are effectively selecting five specialist bowlers; neither Parnell (22.34) nor McLaren (30.63) has a first class batting average that is high enough to consider them as test-quality #7 batsmen. #8, sure, but not a #7.

    Most international sides limit themselves to four specialist bowlers, and look to one of the batsmen to chip in with occasional overs, as Duminy will no doubt do. South Africa will miss Kallis's batting more than his bowling, so they should have selected another batsman.

  • BellCurve on February 11, 2014, 16:00 GMT

    South Africa and Australia have not played a 5-Test series since 1966, when SA won 3-1. They haven't played a 4-Test series since 1970, when SA won 4-0. They haven't played a 3-Test series since 2012, when SA won 1-0. For 50 years, SA have consistently been Australia's nemesis. They humiliated them at the start of the 70s and they were the side that knocked them off their No1 perch back in 2008. I predict a resounding 3-0 victory for SA, led by the usual suspects: AB, Amla, Smith, Steyn and Vern.

  • Atifkhan3489 on February 11, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    I think series is not of the fast bowlers.thats the main contest between batsmen which will decide the series.the team whose batting clicks will win the series.

  • DylanBrah on February 11, 2014, 15:54 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson's Ashes bowling figures: 4/61, 5/42, 7/40, 1/73, 2/62, 4/78, 5/63, 3/25, 3/33, 3/40.. That's 37 wickets @13.97 chaps... he completely terrorised the English batsmen beyond belief... Alastair Cook and friends were reported to have wet the bed on more than one occasion due to nightmares of the crazy moustached man staring them down after bowling one around the ears at 155km/h... Mitch shaved his mo at the end of the Ashes series... (what a champ, by the way, raised $50000 for a good cause)... however, bowled poorly in the ODI series... many believe this is due to not having the moustache which now haunts those whose careers it ruined... but never fear Australian fans, because the mo has grown back and will be raring to go in under 24 hours time... Good luck South Africa... you'll need it.

  • creebo777 on February 11, 2014, 15:47 GMT

    Expect morne morkel to shine in this series,no more yellow jacket.had a good series against India even though he only took 6 wickets, still he average 20

  • on February 11, 2014, 15:40 GMT

    although aus has won the series against England hands down, but still south Africa is far far better team in south Africa. Africa has beaten India, and playing a good cricket at home, while aus will be somewhat easy and relaxed after winning the ashes. so i don't think aus can beat Africa here, aus batsmen are no more extra ordinary for the African bowling. so a very good context is awaiting and i reckon Africa to win, and suggest my friends to be at the African side and do all the coverings.

  • Talalthegreat on February 11, 2014, 15:38 GMT

    I think it's gonna be 1-1. These r definitely the 2 best teams and pace attacks in the world. Can't wait!!!

  • willownandleather on February 11, 2014, 15:38 GMT

    I've got my tickets for tommorow's game. Can't wait. Because I stay in Centurion, I went and bought them at the ground. Also got to see the Aussies train. The weather has turned for the better. In fact it was so sunny and hot, that groundsman had same hessian over the match pitch to give it some shade so as not to dry it out to much. It's going to be an interesting contest!

  • IAS2009 on February 11, 2014, 15:36 GMT

    I think Aussies are way over rated, 5-0 ashes win looks good because England were so poor and they are on their backyard, Aussies top order collapsed many times and Haddin rescued them because England let them get away with it, I don't see it happening in SA. Remember how Aussies were white washed in India not long ago. 3-0 for SA. Go South Africa.

  • Beertjie on February 11, 2014, 15:31 GMT

    Having watched Donald take those 8 wickets 17 years ago, I fear Steyn's emulation of that feat.

  • on February 11, 2014, 15:22 GMT

    We can expect Australia to follow similar strategy as India did in the 1st test. Leave as many balls as possible at outside off-stump. Tire-out the bowlers.

  • Robster1 on February 11, 2014, 15:10 GMT

    Unlike the SA/India series at least this isn't just two tests. Shame though time doesn't permit a five match series between these two heavyweights. 2-1 to SA?

  • on February 11, 2014, 15:07 GMT

    if Mitch takes a 5 for in the first innings then it will be aussies all over sa in the first test . Expecting mouth watering duel between the best bowling attacks at present.

  • aeroboy.ae on February 11, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    why this series isn't a five match test series ??

  • JustIPL on February 11, 2014, 15:00 GMT

    Refusing to lose the game has been the approach of Saffers. At the same time they counterattack strongly and deliver the knockout punch. Aussies have newly found confidence in batting and bowling both and inroads for aussies will be possible if Saffers refuse to lose. So, only one way to go for Saffers is attack from the word go. If aussies play well and win series then they can not only snatch ICC top ranking from SA but also they will take India down the ICC ranking table. Killing two birds with one arrow.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on February 11, 2014, 14:50 GMT

    1st things 1st this is the most anticipated test series outside the Ashes -Aus v SA . 2 best sides in the world and evenly matched with not much to differ betw. the 2 when it comes to talent and potential esp in the pace dept. These 2 are the best pace attacks in world and though the world's best Aus is superior to that of SA the former is an young,rising team with inexp. esp. at the top order and most of the batting.SA meanwhile have load of exp. as also the home adv.But the big 'X- factor' in the game today -1 and only Mitch with his fiery 95mph l/arm swing- on his fave. SA pitches as always giving lot of help to the quicks is in the Aussies possession .He will be the big diff. ,another MoS awaits him .Aus young bats just have to give few Wkts as poss. to Steyn esp the new ball.Him and Morkel apart rest of the bowlers are v avg. as also the spinner and will be easy pickings for Clarke and his young bats. No Kallis too. Aus to win 2/3-0 in good contest . Unlike Ashes !-:)

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:50 GMT

    What a great contest it can turned out to be.A mouth watering prospect for all the test cricket lover around the world.More dominantly this series can turn out to be the contest between the fast bowlers of both the sides.Australian batsmen will have to show the courage of playing well outside their home turf.At the same time their fast bowlers have to remain injury free.On the other hand South Africa have to find the replacement of kallis as the bowler because if one of their fast bowlers gets injured,then he always come in handy.On the batting front i think south africa is little bit stronger than the aussies but they also have to face a rejuvenated johnson.Really looking forward to this series.May the best team wins.All the best.

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:49 GMT

    As much as I'd like to get carried away with Australia's chances, the fact remains the we haven't really proven that much. Yes, the team brutally crushed an England side that has really gotten on top of us in recent times, and yes, that does mean something, but it wasn't so long ago that we achieved a similar satisfaction against India at home, winning 4-0, only to follow that up with the most humiliating series defeat ever witnessed in my lifetime on the return leg in India. This Australian team still has many question marks surrounding the resilience of the batting line up, it wasn't more than one series ago these same batsmen where laughing stocks. I can also see some quality South African partnerships numbing the bowling attack (but I suppose that is a possibilty with the even best of them). That being said, recent bowling has been undoubtedly brilliant. I really hope the Ashes whitewash was a turning point, but we'll have to wait to see. This series will answer that question...

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:38 GMT

    I can't believe this isn't a 5 match series!

  • vikasyadavbtech on February 11, 2014, 14:36 GMT

    Winning the chances of South Africa is definitely higher, due to their strong bowling attack and Australia weak Batting line up..

  • ZkAneela on February 11, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    I hope SA come hard at Aussies coz if they dont,aussies will.So SA should take brave and bold decisions and play positive cricket.To be honest they should play like no.1 and dont worry and fear of loosing.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 11, 2014, 14:29 GMT

    Hurry up tomorrow! I'm sure the comments sections here will change from conjecture and chest beating to gloating or hiding 24 hours from now.

    Fingers crossed the storms that have been forecast don't take away too much time. I think that's the one thing we can all agree on.

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    Bowling allrounders like McLaren, Peterson, Parnell and Kleinveldt will be reduced to pure tailenders when they face Johnson. This is what he did to Broad and Prior from England. Plus we have Duminy at 6 with a batting average of 32. I (SA) am a little worried about this series.

  • atuljain1969 on February 11, 2014, 14:16 GMT

    This series will really tell us whether the recent syndrome, all the home teams winning big, still holds true. If Australia can win here, we can say there Ashes win was no fluke. After all they got similarly got thrashed 3-0 in England also 4-0 in India.

    So, onus is on Australia to reverse this trend.

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:12 GMT

    Safa's will win 3-0 hands down without shedding a drop of sweat

  • real_gone_gadd on February 11, 2014, 14:09 GMT

    Shame it's not a 4 or 5 test series

  • on February 11, 2014, 14:05 GMT

    If we (SA) go in with the above team, we're gonna come a distant second. For the love of God, play Elgar (specialist batsman) at 7, drop Robbie P. and play Kleinveldt (he bowled really well in the warm-up match, is more consistent than Parnell and more penetrative than McLaren), with Duminy covering the spin. 7 specialist batsmen, 4 specialist seamers and a better-than-part-time spinner. Perfect balance for SA conditions.

  • Sultan2007 on February 11, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    Wow. What a mouthwatering prospect indeed. I am really looking forward to this series for a couple of reasons. First, there is nothing more exciting in cricket than watching a genuine quick thundering in off a long run up and hurling it at 90mph. Second, I expect it to be proven out that at least in modern cricket, there is no team that plays genuine pace well and comfortably. England got found out recently, Australia got found out in 2005 against England and so did all those teams that faced Austrlalia with Lillie/Thomo and Rod Hogg and of course those that faced the famed West Indian battery. So the western press needs to lay off the sub continent teams. Of course, nothing will give me greater pleasure than be proven wrong as there is nothing more exciting than a batsman playing a real quick bowler with flair and panache!

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Boring test match, I would rather stick to T20 league! can't waste my 5 days for it, no way haha!!

  • fair_paly_1 on February 11, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    This "big three" hoopla means nothing to me. Any team that performs consistently is a big team for me. Any of the top 8 teams have a potential to be big as NZ are showing signs of it. All else "big" going on is just nonsense.

    Currently, these two are undoubtedly the top ones. So, looking forward to a good contest here. From a neutral's point of view completely one sided Ashes was not a great fun to watch - Aussies were just too good there.

  • ZainE111 on February 11, 2014, 13:36 GMT

    Absolutely can't wait!! Wish I could fast forward to tomorrow. I predict either SA 2-0 or SA 2-1.

  • First_Drop on February 11, 2014, 13:24 GMT

    The aussie bowlers might do very well, but without any sort of warm-up match(??!!) the Aussies will surely lose at least the first test.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:12 GMT

    both d spinners will be effective

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:11 GMT

    You cannot replace Kallis. Either select a front line fast bowler or a top order batsman. Peterson, Philander, Steyn and Morkel can all contribute with the bat. It is not your typical lower order tail. With all the hype around the fast bowlers I would be tempted to strengthen the batting. Also taking into account that SA reached no. 1 with a 7 batsman selection JP can bowl 8 overs of offspin. McClaren or Parnell. I say neither. If a bowler is going to be selected then it will have to be Abbot or Beuron Hendricks. Are they in the squad?

    SA to win 2 nil.

    We are not no 1 for no reason.

    All the best SA. Cant wait for the series to start.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on February 11, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    Not long now. Just can't wait!!! How much better is this be than some rubbish league T20 game!

    Best fast bowlers on planet earth will be on display to ply their trade on quick, seaming pitches. No opening the bowling with spinners here Ladies and Gentlemen - what a showpiece, such entertainment.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    Wow !!! Battle of Nerves !!!!! Some serious Batsmen will prevail against high quality pace attack on both sides...

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:04 GMT

    Awaiting for an awesome match

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:04 GMT

    Awaiting for an awesome match

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    Wow !!! Battle of Nerves !!!!! Some serious Batsmen will prevail against high quality pace attack on both sides...

  • TommytuckerSaffa on February 11, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    Not long now. Just can't wait!!! How much better is this be than some rubbish league T20 game!

    Best fast bowlers on planet earth will be on display to ply their trade on quick, seaming pitches. No opening the bowling with spinners here Ladies and Gentlemen - what a showpiece, such entertainment.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:11 GMT

    You cannot replace Kallis. Either select a front line fast bowler or a top order batsman. Peterson, Philander, Steyn and Morkel can all contribute with the bat. It is not your typical lower order tail. With all the hype around the fast bowlers I would be tempted to strengthen the batting. Also taking into account that SA reached no. 1 with a 7 batsman selection JP can bowl 8 overs of offspin. McClaren or Parnell. I say neither. If a bowler is going to be selected then it will have to be Abbot or Beuron Hendricks. Are they in the squad?

    SA to win 2 nil.

    We are not no 1 for no reason.

    All the best SA. Cant wait for the series to start.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:12 GMT

    both d spinners will be effective

  • First_Drop on February 11, 2014, 13:24 GMT

    The aussie bowlers might do very well, but without any sort of warm-up match(??!!) the Aussies will surely lose at least the first test.

  • ZainE111 on February 11, 2014, 13:36 GMT

    Absolutely can't wait!! Wish I could fast forward to tomorrow. I predict either SA 2-0 or SA 2-1.

  • fair_paly_1 on February 11, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    This "big three" hoopla means nothing to me. Any team that performs consistently is a big team for me. Any of the top 8 teams have a potential to be big as NZ are showing signs of it. All else "big" going on is just nonsense.

    Currently, these two are undoubtedly the top ones. So, looking forward to a good contest here. From a neutral's point of view completely one sided Ashes was not a great fun to watch - Aussies were just too good there.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Boring test match, I would rather stick to T20 league! can't waste my 5 days for it, no way haha!!

  • Sultan2007 on February 11, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    Wow. What a mouthwatering prospect indeed. I am really looking forward to this series for a couple of reasons. First, there is nothing more exciting in cricket than watching a genuine quick thundering in off a long run up and hurling it at 90mph. Second, I expect it to be proven out that at least in modern cricket, there is no team that plays genuine pace well and comfortably. England got found out recently, Australia got found out in 2005 against England and so did all those teams that faced Austrlalia with Lillie/Thomo and Rod Hogg and of course those that faced the famed West Indian battery. So the western press needs to lay off the sub continent teams. Of course, nothing will give me greater pleasure than be proven wrong as there is nothing more exciting than a batsman playing a real quick bowler with flair and panache!