Ed Hawkins previews the first of three contests between two below-strength sides, starting with a showdown in Adelaide on Wednesday morning
"We could even be cheeky and say that Tahir, with his mystery spin, could expose the malady that Australia's Test players suffered from in the UAE."
Back South Africa at 2.568/5
Australia v South Africa
Start time: 08.35GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports 2
Aaron Finch, Australia's top runscorer in the last 12 months, captains a squad which is hoping to restore pride following the Test team's humiliation in Pakistan. There is no George Bailey. Needless to say, there is no crossover between the two groups.
There is a healthy mix of experience and youth. Shane Watson, Cameron White and Doug Bollinger will be expected to deliver consistently. Ben Dunk, the wicketkeeper, was a surprise selection. He is in line for an international debut, as is Nathan Reardon, the Queensland left-hander and Sean Abbott, the New South Wales all-rounder.
Squad: Aaron Finch (capt), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Cameron Boyce, Patrick Cummins, Ben Cutting, Ben Dunk (wk), James Faulkner, Nic Maddinson, Nathan Reardon, Kane Richardson, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
This is not a full-strength South Africa squad, either. There is no Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, Faf du Plessis, their regular captain, or Albie Morkel. Instead, JP Duminy is expected to lead an experimental squad. He will rely heavily on experience in the form of David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson and Wayne Parnell. Quinton de Kock, the wicketkeeper, is a reliable hitter in this format.
Squad: JP Duminy (capt), Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Marchant de Lange, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, David Wiese.
Australia are favourites at 1.564/7 to win the three-game contest. South Africa are 2.0421/20 and the draw is 2.265/4. The hosts look very poor favourites indeed, as detailed in the match odds analysis.
South Africa and Australia are third and fifth respectively on the ICC ranking charts for Twenty20. Not that it is relevant. On the face of it, the purge of 'regulars' by the boards for this series gives punters a difficult task.
Form is not important. Instead we have to make sense of the talent that has been left behind and what that means for the odds on offer. When we do that, there is clarity.
It would appear that both sides are almost as weak as each other. Australia are without four of their top six batsmen (Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Bailey, Brad Hodge) in the last 12 months. South Africa are minus three of their best six batters (Amla, De Villiers and Du Plessis).
If that could be considered an edge, then the visitors will claim they have stronger bowling. Tahir and Parnell are first and second on their top wicket-taker lists, either side of Steyn.
Australia, having also left out Nathan Coulter-Nile and Josh Hazlewood, can offer only two of their top ten best in the study period - Bollinger and the green spinner Cameron Boyce. If you extend the filter to the last two years, Australia still look weak. Only James Faulkner, Watson and Bollinger make the top ten.
This does not make South Africa an outstanding bet. It merely highlights the utter fallacy of the match odds. Australia are priced at odds you would expect a crack outfit against relative no-hopers in this format as 1.635/8 plays 2.568/5. That's akin to Chennai Super Kings taking on a mid-table IPL side. Or, an Australia with their best players against this very South African side.
In other words there is no evidence for Australia to be so short. There is no evidence, either to say that South Africa should be favourites. That is because both squads are pretty much unknown at this level, so the gap should be much closer together.
There has been only one T20 international played at the Adelaide Oval - Australia making 157 against England in 2011 and losing by one wicket. In the most recent Big Bash the first-innings scores were: 159-149-129-155. The previous year they were: 185-135-175-189. All together that gives us an average of 159.
Top Australia batsman
Finch has 561 runs in the last two years at a strike rate of 155.8 and average of 35. He will be a short jolly at no better than 3.55/2. Watson could open the batting with him. Look out for Dunk's spectacular hitting.
Top South Africa runscorer
De Kock has outscored De Villiers, Amla and Miller in the last two years with 363 runs at 27 and a strike rate of 115. He is expected to open the batting with Reeza Hendricks. Rilee Rossouw, who top scored in defeat by a representative XI in a warm-up, should be at No 3 followed by Duminy and Miller.
Back South Africa at 2.568/5
Ed Hawkins P/L
2013: +250.80 (ROI 25%)
To £10 level stakes