Hosts South Africa will take on Australia in the first of the five ODIs at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday. Although Australia are the defending champions, the Proteas will have the upper hand considering Australia’s inexperienced bowling. The Aussies are the number one ranked side in the world while South Africa are number four. But, Australia will be without the services of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, both of whom have been rested. On the other hand, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and James Faulkner are all out due to injury.
Owing to the lack of options, Australia have been forced to include a number of new bowlers in the pace department. Daniel Worrall, who made his debut in Australia’s nine-wicket victory over Ireland in Benoni a few days back has been included. The others names in the squad are Chris Tremain and Joe Mennie. While the novice bowling attack will definitely put pressure on the visitors, it is equally true that there is a great opportunity for the relatively unknown names to make a mark. Under the circumstances a lot would depend on Mitchell Marsh and John Hastings, who are relatively more experienced.
In the spin department, a lot will depend on Adam Zampa. When he entered international cricket, there weren’t high hopes from him, but he has slowly and surely established himself as a key member of the ODI team with some impressive performances. As a result, he has managed to keep Nathan Lyon out of the side. In the batting, Australia will be looking to continue the good run they displayed in Sri Lanka. David Warner at the top, and Steven Smith, George Bailey and Marsh in the middle order will have important roles to play. Usman Khawaja must get among the runs too.
South Africa will be buoyed by the return to full fitness of Dale Steyn. The Proteas pace spearhead must be looking to make an impact in the format. Then there is also Kagiso Rabada, who has been constantly impressive for the hosts ever since having made his debut. Wayne Parnell is the other pace option. In the spin department, a lot will again depend on leggie Imran Tahir while Aaron Phangiso can play the support act along with JP Duminy, who has expressed his desire to improve his bowling so that he can be of greater efficiency to the team.
South Africa have a strong batting line-up, and should be confident of performing well at home. The loss of AB de Villiers will be a big blow though, and they will seek bigger efforts from experienced men like Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and stand-in captain Faf du Plessis. Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Duminy and David Miller will also be looked up to when it comes to standing up with the bat. As mentioned earlier, Australia’s weak bowling gives South Africa the edge, but the Aussies will look to make up with their strong batting themselves.
--By A Cricket Analyst