Australia and Proteas chase perfect start in daunting Super 12 group
This is a match that sees two of the tournament’s most fearsome fast bowling units, best-equipped spin arsenals, and powerful batting orders face off.
It is also a match featuring two sides with very different form-lines and contrasting levels of outward expectation.
With the likes of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Faf du Plessis no longer in the squad, South Africa enter the tournament without the regular media hype that follows them going into ICC events despite the likes of de Kock, Rabada and company.
Australia conversely have seen their stocks rise notably since confirming a squad that includes the ilk of Maxwell, Aaron Finch, Warner, Starc, Smith and Pat Cummins.
At 2pm local time in Abu Dhabi, the two teams commence their campaigns and in truth it is the Proteas who should be favourites in the match if form means anything.
They’re currently on a run of seven straight T20I wins on top of taking out both their warm-up matches ahead of today’s game. Only Bangladesh have won as many T20Is this year as South Africa – 11 – in men’s cricket.
On the other end of the spectrum, Australia has won just four of their 15 T20Is this year, suffering series losses in New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh.
Despite that, it’s hard to look at their squad and not be impressed. There’s no doubt that if they click, they can go all the way.
What is clear is that neither team can really afford to slip up in this match. With games to come against world No.1s England, reigning champions West Indies and battle-hardened Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, teams can ill-afford to miss out on points in a group featuring five Test members.
- Match: Australia v South Africa
- Time: 14:00 local time on Saturday 23 October
- Venue: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Australia captain Finch confirmed his side would only be picking the four specialist bowlers for the match, with all-rounders Marcus Stoinis, Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh to share four overs. Given conditions and the effectiveness of their combination, spin-twins Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are likely to feature meaning one of Australia’s star quicks will have to sit out.
Australia possible XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mathew Wade (wk), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins/Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
There’s plenty of mystery over South Africa’s XI, particularly the top-order where they have an abundance of options. Nevertheless, expect star keeper Quinton de Kock to partner captain Temba Bavuma at the top with one of Reeza Hendricks or Aiden Markram to bat at No.3, ahead of Rassie van der Dussen at No.4. David Miller and Heinrch Klaasen round out the specialist batting roles, with Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder contenders to bat at No.7.
With the ball, Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi are the locks, with two of Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi to complete the XI.
South Africa possible XI: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (c), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Wiaan Mulder, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje/Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi
In Maxwell, Australia have one of the most inventive and explosive batters in the game. He boasts the best strike rate of anyone who has batted at least 20 times in T20I cricket, scoring at a strike rate of 158.92. That number goes up to 160 in T20 World Cups – a number bettered only by Daren Sammy in tournament history (minimum 125 balls) – and he comes into this tournament in serious form after a bumper Indian Premier League campaign.
He’s the No.1 T20I bowler in the world and he’ playing in conditions that should suit him. Suffice to say, Shamsi will be pivotal to South Africa’s hopes.
The left-arm wrist-spinner has been nigh on unplayable in 2021, with 28 wickets at 12.85 and an economy of 5.53 for the calendar year. That’s the most wickets of any bowler at this tournament.
Expert Dream11 Fantasy tips
Captaincy Pick - Glenn Maxwell
For the opening clash of the Super 12, there’s no one better than Big Show to go with as the captain of your fantasy team. The Aussie all-rounder was in phenomenal form for Bangalore in the recently concluded phase 2 of IPL 2021, scoring 290 runs in eight matches at a strike rate of 143.6. His record in the T20 format in UAE speaks volumes for why he needs to be your fantasy captain, as he has a batting average of 32.8 in 33 T20s played in these conditions.
Must-have - Tabraiz Shamsi
The No.1 ranked T20I bowler in the world is a must-have in this match. He has been in impressive form in T20Is this year, having scalped 28 wickets in 17 matches for South Africa. Adding to his present form, he has an impressive bowling strike rate of 14.1 in nine matches played in Asia.
What they Said
Australia captain Aaron Finch on the value of their recent warm-ups against India and New Zealand: “To have two really good hit outs against New Zealand and India, I think, was crucial for our preparation as well to be able to hit the ground running once we got here and sort of brush up on our skills and just play together. It's been really nice.”
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma on South Africa’s state of mind: “I am confident. The squad that we have here, it is a squad that we've been playing together for quite a while for the last couple of months. It's a squad that we built. We tried to cover all our bases, in terms of fast bowling, in terms of spin, as well as the batters.”