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Cape Town cloud lingers as Australia resume at home

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Aaron Finch tight-lipped on ODI team selection (0:53)

Australia's new ODI captain Aaron Finch kept his cards close when asked about the starting XI to face South Africa (0:53)

Big Picture

The last time these two sides met...hang on, you don't need reminding of that. In a quirk of scheduling, the opposition against whom Australia (albeit in a different format) suffered one of the most astonishing episodes witnessed are their first engagement on home soil since then. It's been a long seven months and a lot has happened to Australian cricket, most of it bad.

The past week has been dominated by the boardroom so, in many ways, it is a relief to now get to the on-field action. With a restructured season, this short visit by South Africa is the appetiser to the main course of India who arrive later this month. And, not just because it's the start of trying to win back the public (if, in truth, they have been lost), it is an important tussle for Australia.

They need to reinvent their one-day game which has been in a rut for close to two years now. In 2018 alone they have played 10 ODIs, all against England, and lost nine. Their last victory in a non-dead rubber ODI came against Pakistan in Sydney in January 2017. The World Cup is six months away and Australia look a long way from retaining their title.

Leaving aside the enforced absence of Steven Smith and David Warner, Australia, under new captain Aaron Finch, have been able to pick what should be their strongest squad in the circumstances. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are fit while Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell should have the chance to give an insipid middle order a kick.

South Africa were off the pace against the Prime Minister's XI, but the itinerary hasn't been the most helpful, arriving into Perth before a return cross-country trip to Canberra for the warm-up. Their batting is missing Hashim Amla and JP Duminy so is not at full strength, but they have a pace attack to rival Australia. Rarely can a one-day series have had six such quality fast bowlers on show.

Form guide

Australia LLLLL
South Africa WWWLL

In the spotlight

It seems odd to say for the World Cup holders, but Australia's one-day batting is out of tune to how the game has developed. Warner's absence is a massive hole, but of the players available Glenn Maxwell is the one who should be providing the x-factor. There have been plenty of mixed messages for him of late, but if he can't find a key role in this side something has gone wrong. He played decently against England on a trip where Justin Langer lauded his work ethic, but things still didn't feel quite right.

David Miller has gone down the white-ball only route having shelved his first-class career. Part of his thinking was with the 2019 World Cup in mind, so it's pretty important that he doesn't let that slip through his fingers. He was rested from the recent series against Zimbabwe as South Africa assessed other names, but an on-form Miller remains a destructive option. This year, though, hasn't been his best with one half-century in nine matches against India and Sri Lanka so a good series here would help prevent any pre-World Cup unease. He looked in decent order against the PM's XI before finding long-on.

Team news

Finch said he knew his XI but would not reveal it until the toss. Mitchell Starc is available having overcome the hamstring problem he picked up in the UAE, but there could still be a decision to make as whether to unleash him straightaway. The balance of the attack will also pose a question.

Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Travis Head, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Chris Lynn, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Given the short lead-in time, the names who featured against the Prime Minister's XI could all play although Andile Phehlukwayo may come in for Dwaine Pretorius. Faf du Plessis said they would take another look at the surface before deciding whether to consider two spinners. The tail looks a little long, but Dale Steyn's recent batting form has been a boost.

South Africa (probable) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Reeza Hendricks, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo/Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

The Perth Stadium is still in its infancy having only hosted one international so far - the ODI between Australia and England earlier this year. The pitch to be used for this game has been played on once before when England Lions faced Western Australia. The forecast is for a dry, sunny day.

Stats and Trivia

Quotes

"If you start looking at the end result purely that's when you can make some errors in judgement and fall down that way. It's just important to keep it nice and positive and follow our processes as opposed to the full outcome."
Aaron Finch wants to look to the future not the past

"Whenever you get a chance to play against Australia it feels like you're playing against a very good cricket team."
Faf du Plessis