Australia in South Africa 2015-16 March 1, 2016

Australia wary of Tahir spin threat

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'Our record hasn't been great playing excellent spin' - Maxwell

Ah, Australia. Just the team South Africa want to see.

Never mind that the Australia Test side now holds the mace that was in South Africa's cabinet little more than a month ago, that the Australia one-day side thrashed South Africa 4-1 the last time they met and that the T20 side beat them 2-1 on the same 2014 tour. For South Africa, there is no better yardstick to measure themselves against than the old enemy.

"It's good to judge yourself against some of the better sides and better players," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said. Especially if you have the upper hand.

While South Africa have won three of their last four T20 series, Australia are coming off a 3-0 home whitewash to India. While two of South Africa's victories came in the subcontinent, the same place the World T20 will be played, the closest Australia have got to that region in the last year is in their opposition. They have not played in the subcontinent since 2014.

Which means Australia are concerned with all things spin, something South Africa know about and now consider conquered. At both ends.

Most of their batsmen, perhaps JP Duminy and David Miller excluded, are comfortable against turn and some of them - AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla - can dominate it. More importantly, though, South Africa have a genuine match-winning spinner in Imran Tahir who has shown an ability to control passages of play by taking wickets and limiting runs.

In the recent series against England, Tahir's five wickets was the join-highest haul along with Kyle Abbott and his economy rate of 5.75 was the lowest overall. Given their recent record against quality spinners, Australia are wary.

"Imran is very experienced. He is an outstanding bowler. He has been very successful and he played really well in the IPL last year," Glenn Maxwell, who played against Tahir while he was with Delhi Daredevils, said. "I think that was a big thing for him and for his confidence. I think he has been riding that since. He seems to grab the momentum back for South Africa every time he comes on.

"Our record hasn't been great in the subcontinent, especially playing excellent spin. You've only to look back at our last performance [at the World T20] in 2014 in Bangladesh: Ajmal, Afridi, Narine, we struggled against."

Even in the series against India at home, Australia were undone by spin. Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin shared nine wickets between them to finish behind Jasprit Bumrah on the wicket-takers' list. But the Australia line-up that played in those matches is not the Australia line-up that will play in South Africa or at the World T20 and Maxwell has promised they will have more muscle.

"If you look at our batting order, it's suited to combat that," he said. "We've got excellent players of spin in our team and guys that have got international experience in India. It's going to be key for us to have those guys perform well for us. It felt like the Indian series we were trying a lot of players. We didn't play our main team at any stage. It's an exciting that we can get better from that. Hopefully when we hit Durban on Friday night we can show that with our No. 1 side."

Australia have dispensed with the likes of Travis Head and Chris Lynn for now and will rely on the experience of Aaron Finch, David Warner and Shane Watson. They have a settled on their Test wicketkeeper who was not part of the India series at all - Peter Nevill - instead of Matthew Wade or Cameron Bancroft and they have decided they can do without Shaun Marsh. Now, all they need is to find the consistency they have lacked in this format, which Maxwell thinks is because of the irregularity with which they play it.

"We play a lot of one-day cricket and you get used to your role in that team but in T20s, we've played quite sparingly as a team at international level," he said. "Between the World T20 in Bangladesh and now, we've played only a few games in a row where you can get a roll on."

Since that tournament, Australia have only played eight T20s and won three. South Africa have played 15 (with one abandonment) and won nine, which would explain why they are so happy to host Australia for the next ten days. But the results of this mini-series will determine how happy they will be when they head to the World T20.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TheTrueOracle on March 2, 2016, 11:00 GMT

    Go South Africa.we are all going for You.

  • izzidole on March 2, 2016, 10:38 GMT

    How come Glenn Maxwell is doing all the talking and not Steve Smith the captain? He should let his bat do all the talking. He is a highly talented cricketer and a dangerous batsman but so far has failed to deliver. The current T20 series against South Africa and the T20 cricket world cup could be his last opportunity to do so.

  • thebatsmansHoldingthebowlersWilley on March 2, 2016, 9:42 GMT

    @ TOMMYTUCKERSAFFA: You're absolutely right. A top three of De Villiers, de Kock and Amla...wow...that is seriously good. Morris can give it a whack down the order too. Tahir will be a handful against the Aussies who play spin about as well as us English. I think South Africa are shaping up nicely

  • Adam Kosey on March 2, 2016, 8:51 GMT

    Tommytuckersaffa: we love ab too just not when hes plundering rubs against us lol

  • cricketsubh on March 2, 2016, 8:11 GMT

    Australia is a serious contender for world t20 I think Sri Lanka Pakistan serious contenders for world cup but I see Asia cup they are both struggling at the moment I pick India Australia two serious contenders for world cup if west indies found from they can also win

  • MAGNETOELECRIC_PULL on March 2, 2016, 7:30 GMT

    Eng & Aus both struggle against proper leg spins. Tahir alone is enough to make them do break dance.

  • thebatsmansHoldingthebowlersWilley on March 2, 2016, 7:29 GMT

    The Aussies need to watch out for de Kock and Rabada too. Seriously talented.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on March 2, 2016, 7:23 GMT

    I don't get excited about T20 but I am really excited to watch AB open the batting. Such an eye catching player, its no wonder he is loved around the world except in Australia. SA have finally woken up to the concept of getting your best players to face most the deliveries in T20. Wil De Kock open with AB or will it be Amla.

  • dunger.bob on March 2, 2016, 7:14 GMT

    @ PrasPunter: I agree with you on a lot of things but not on T20 I'm afraid. I've got a bit of a sweet tooth and don't mind a quick sugar fix now and then. T20 is like that for me. No way I'd want to live on it but it's ok for a treat. There's another thing too. If we manage to actually win this thing we will be the very first Triple Crown holder. I've been told that a win in the T20wc would be enough to shoot us from 8 right up to 1. Hard to believe I know, but it seems to check out. That would mean we simultaneously hold the # 1 ranking in all 3 formats and are the current holder of the 2 World Cups available. A quintuple threat. .. That is something to shoot for imo. I won't be shattered if we miss out but I'd be pretty damn happy if we did manage to swoop in and score that little heist :)

  • Damien. on March 2, 2016, 7:01 GMT

    This series could be a warm up before the T20 Wc...The World Twenty20 title is the only major global cricket trophy to have eluded Australia.....,the only silverware missing from the Oz headquarters ! Smithy may do that this time but don't bother too much if he couldn't....I guess we've won the '87 ICC Wc & '06 Icc CT cup in ind....can we win the Icc T20 Wc in ind? Lets see

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