February 21, 2020
South Africa v Australia
Venue: The Wanderers | Start: 3:00am (AEDT)
South Africa analysis: Fresh off defeat to England in a three-game T20 series, the Proteas are bolstered by the return of familiar foes Kagiso Rabada and Faf du Plessis against the Aussies. Despite the 2-1 series loss, new skipper Quinton de Kock and his side can take plenty from it, especially with the bat. In both losses, the hosts still posted 200-plus and were undone by arguably the best hitting power in the world. De Kock himself scored 31, 65 and 35 at an outrageous strike-rate of 214.75. And while he proved again he is more than capable with the bat, from a captaincy perspective the series could prove a learning curve in field-setting and use of bowlers. Spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was the only bowler to go for less than 9-an-over in the series, and the Proteas know they’ll need to better execute their plans against the likes of Aaron Finch and David Warner.
Thankfully for them, they also welcome back bustling quick Anrich Nortje alongside Rabada, in a move that will bolster their ability with the ball. They will, however, lose Temba Bavuma for at least game one after suffering a minor hamstring strain.
The opener scored 43, 31 and 49 alongside de Kock against England, as the pair proved a formidable force at the top. Du Plessis has spent the last two IPL seasons at the top of the order for Chennai Super Kinds, and could stand in as opener.
Australia analysis: Unlike the hosts, Justin Langer’s side haven’t played a T20 International since November. Then, at the start of the summer, the Aussies cruised past Pakistan and Sri Lanka as David Warner ran riot, scoring 287 runs and being dismissed just once. While they may have to blow off some cobwebs in Game One, the fact is the Aussies are unbeaten in their last eight T20 internationals and according to team management are close to settling on their best side for the World Cup later this year. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be,” Langer said. “We are getting very close to that style of play and the team we want to play when the World Cup comes around.”
That style of play won’t, at least for this series, feature Glenn Maxwell who has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. The blow heightens the chance Mitch Marsh will return to the XI. If anything, Australia’s bowling stocks are in fine order, underlined by the fact Josh Hazlewood could not squeeze his way into this T20 squad. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and death-bowling specialist Kane Richardson picked themselves, while the selectors have rewarded Jhye Richardson from a strong BBL campaign and Sean Abbott, who impressed in the T20Is earlier this summer. The Wanderers pitch is a naturally quick deck, and while Starc and Cummins might be licking their lips, so too will Rabada, Nortje and Lungi Ngidi.
Betting: On match sharpness alone, South Africa have an edge over the Aussies. Having just completed an ultra-competitive series against England, they are primed to get the early jump. Further, Australia hasn’t played in the format since November. For the hosts, De Kock, as alluded to, was in blistering touch against England and, as opener, is a strong bet as top runscorer. With the ball, Lungi Ngidi’s eight wickets in three games – plus his brilliance in extracting wickets at the death – makes him the outstanding option for the Proteas. For the Aussies, Warner’s T20 form in the last 12 months (and, like de Kock, his position as opener) makes him impossible to look past in the top runscorer markets. With the ball, Starc presents a deadly option in the shortest format and could well strike both early and late for the visitors.
Head to Head: South Africa
Top Runs Scorer – Aust: David Warner
Most Wickets – Aust: Mitchell Starc
Top Runs Scorer – Opponent: Quinton de Kock
Most Wickets – Opponent: Lungi Ngidi