Twenty20 internationals (3): South Africa 1, Australia 2
Australia's Twenty20 team looked like a work in progress when they landed for a three-game stopover en route to the World Twenty20 in India. They had lost their last four 20-over matches (one in Cardiff, three at home to India), while South Africa had won theirs (two in India, two at home to England).
South Africa seemed balanced, settled and confident, and captain Faf du Plessis was happy to say so. By contrast, Australia had an odd-looking squad: four opening batsmen, a stack of all-rounders, and few specialists. Steve Smith had captained the national Twenty20 side only once before, although he had led Sydney Sixers and Rajasthan Royals. There were many pieces of the jigsaw unplaced, and all 15 players got at least a game. Three of Australia's quartet of openers - Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson - took their turn at the job; David Warner dropped down to the middle order for the first time, and stayed there throughout the World Twenty20.
Finch, their previous T20 captain, said other teams would be targeting their top order with spinners, and pinpointed Imran Tahir as the danger man, although Smith suggested the 360-degree hitting of A. B. de Villiers posed the greater threat. "Hopefully the South African curators can make the pitches a little bit slow and turning," he added. "That would benefit both sides ahead of India."
The matches (each preceded by a women's fixture against West Indies) drew near-capacity crowds, buoyed by the forthcoming global event. Though South Africa won the first game, Australia fought back to take the series, and made considerable headway with their jigsaw. Du Plessis skimmed over some obvious shortcomings - particularly in the bowling - and pronounced his team ready for their return to India. In the event, neither would progress beyond the group stages.
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