1st Test Preview – South Africa v Australia
Thursday March 1, 7pm AEDT – Kingsmead, Durban
We’ve got a mouth-watering Test series ahead of us between two of the heavy-weights in international cricket – South Africa and Australia. South Africa won their recent home Test series 2-1 against India, while Australia regained the Ashes after their 4-0 demolition of England.
|1st Test Winner||Australia ($2.25)|
|South Africa 1st Innings Top Batsman||AB de Villiers ($4)|
|Australia 1st Innings Top Batsman||Steven Smith ($3)|
|Top South Africa Bowler (1st Innings)||Vernon Philander ($3.50)|
|Top Australia Bowler (1st Innings)||Pat Cummins ($4.40)|
South Africa have not beaten Australia in a home Test series in nearly 48 years, and will be hoping to change that to send Morne Morkel off a winner after he announced his retirement from international cricket after this series against Australia.
South Africa won the recent Test series on home soil against India 2-1, with the bowlers dominating the series. Only Virat Kohli and Dean Elgar averaged over 40 for the series with the bat, while the South African quicks lifted in the absence of No.1 quick Dale Steyn. Vernon Philander was named player of the series for his 15 wickets across the three Test matches at an average of 15.86. The emergence of Kagiso Rabada (15 wickets v India) and the promising start of Lungi Ngidi (6/39 v India in his Test debut) has helped the void left by Steyn. Steyn is recovering from a heel injury and won’t be considered for selection until the 3rd Test.
If the pitches throughout the series suit the quicks like they did in the recent Test series against India, then it could play into the hands of the Australian trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. The Aussie quicks were outstanding in the Ashes win over England and all chipped in throughout the series. Pat Cummins was the leading wicket-taker during the Ashes, with 23 wickets, and was closely followed by Mitch Starc (22 wickets) and Josh Hazlewood (21 wickets).
Australian skipper Steve Smith was simply breath-taking during the Ashes and the English bowlers had no answers to dismiss him. He was easily the top run-scorer for the series with 687 runs (3 centuries) at an average of 137.40. Shaun Marsh (445 runs, Average 74.16) and David Warner (441 runs, Average (63) also had very strong Ashes campaigns and will be looking to bring that form to South Africa.
Australia won a recent tour match against South Africa A by five wickets, with Cameron Bancroft getting some much-needed time in the middle as he made a patient 45, while Pat Cummins was the star, with four first innings wickets and 59* with the bat to further press his claims as a genuine bowling all-rounder.
South Africa’s recent Test record at Kingsmead in Durban has been dismal, with only one win in their last seven Test matches at the venue, and a winning strike-rate of 33.33 in Tests at Kingsmead.
The Wolf is leaning to Australia in the 1st Test on the back of this as well as a few other factors. Dale Steyn (44 wickets) is South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Test matches at Kingsmead and won’t take his place here, while South Africa’s rock in the batting line-up, Hashim Amla averages 20.64 from his 17 Test innings here compared to the 45.93 average he has against Australia. There is also the injury cloud hanging over the fitness of South African skipper, Faf du Plessis as he battles a fractured finger to make the final XI for the 1st Test.
There’s too many question marks around key personnel for South Africa, while Australia will be buoyant after their 4-0 Ashes win and will want to start the series on the front foot.
Top South African Batsman (1st Innings)
The Wolf is expecting early wickets to the Australian quick, so is favouring one of the South African batsmen in the middle order. If Faf du Plessis is ruled out with injury, then it’s impossible to go past the sensational AB de Villiers. The South African superstar averages almost 50 in Test cricket and made scores of 65 and 80 in the Test series against in India, in a Test series which was dominated by the ball.
Top Australian Batsman (1st Innings)
The Australian skipper is pressing his claims as the best Australian batsman since Donald Bradman and the stats are backing it up. He currently averages 63.75 in Test cricket, with 23 centuries and just over 6,000 runs. As pointed out, Smith led the run-scorers in the recent Ashes series with 687 runs at an incredible average of 137.40. He’s the glue that keeps this side together and he keeps delivering!
Top South African Bowler (1st Innings)
Vernon Philander was named player of the series for his 15 wickets at an average 15.86 in the 2-1 series win over India. Philander also has 37 wickets in 10 Test matches against Australia and will have added responsibility in the absence of Dale Steyn.
Top Australian Bowler (1st Innings)
Pat Cummins was the leading wicket-taker in the recent Ashes series with 23 wickets and is one of the few players in the Australian side to have experienced Test cricket in South Africa. Cummins hit the ground running in SA, taking 4/32 in the 1st innings of the tour match against South Africa A, and will be threatening in Durban if the wicket is conducive to the quicks.