South Africa v Australia
Saturday 28 February 11.00
Live on Sky Sports
Hosts short on batting
South Africa have had a humbling summer so far. They took the lead in the Test, ODI and t20 series against England but lost all three. They were thrashed twice by Australia in the T20 series.
Confidence must be low. And a look at their squad for this three-game contest doesn't inject optimism in the veins. They seem to have forgotten to pick a couple of batters.
Much will rest on Quinton de Kock getting fast starts and Temba Bavuma being busy enough to lay a platform for Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and JJ Smuts to launch an assault. It is a middle-order which appears hugely vulnerable to expose a long tail with possibly Kagiso Rabada at No 8.
Janne Malan, a 23-year-old with a bright future who should probably have been picked first in T20, should open with De Kock. There is no room in the squad for Reeza Hendricks, Faf Du Plessis or Rassie van der Dussen.
Possible XI De Kock, Malan, Bavuma, Klaasen, Miller, Smuts, Phehlukwayo, Rabada, Shamsi, Hendricks, Ngidi
Aussies have fearsome bowling
Australia come into the series off the back of a 2-1 loss in India, but buoyed by their performance in the first game of the series when they chased 256 without losing a wicket.
Still, in the two games that followed a lack of middle order ballast and brutality - a consistent failing - did for their hopes of claiming the series. There's nowt wrong with a front three of Warner-Finch-Smith but without Glenn Maxwell there is precious little destructive ability to post the whopping scores required. Three from Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey, Mitch Marsh and Matthew Wade are going to have to come up with the goods.
There is, as usual, a lot to like about their bowling. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are likely to prove the difference. Australia will look for an insurmountable lead before giving those two a rest. Josh Hazlewood is also back in the fold.
Probable XI Warner, Finch, Smith, Labuschagne, Marsh, Carey, Agar, Cummins, Starc, K Richardson, Zampa
There have only been two ODI played at Boland Park since 2013. And they tell us nothing because of mismatches. South Africa pummelled Bangladesh for 353 in 2017. The following year they bowled out Zimbabwe for 228.
Scores have been consistent over the last two years in the Momentum Cup, the domestic one-day tournament (1-2 denote match won by team batting first or second, most recent first): 276-1/276-2/273-1/289-2. In the 2019 Mzansi Super League the average run rate was a tick over nine. There is no toss bias in day matches in ODI.
This week's episode of Cricket...Only Bettor asks: when do we stick or twist?
South Africa a trade...with the toss
It is hard not to accuse South Africa of negligence with their batting selection against a fearsome Australia pace attack. The match odds markets agrees. The hosts are 3.002/1 with Australia 1.491/2.
But South Africa are not without hope. And it's a familiar one. They have to bat first and in the chase try to put the squeeze on Australia, who have a terrible record away from home going after targets. It's only six wins in their last 17.
With the toss in their favour, and a pace attack of their own which has potency in Rabada and Ngidi, they are a decent trade to slight favourites, so long as they recognise that 280 keeps Australia honest, rather than trying for 320.
Finch looks big
De Kock and Warner will be well-backed at 2/1 and 13/5 respectively for top bat honours. De Kock, it is hard to ignore, has very little to beat, although don't be surprised if Malan acquits himself well. He is 4/1 for top Saffer. Steve Smith, who was resurgent in the T20s, also showed admirable form in India, top batting twice. He gets a 16/5 quote from Sportsbook. The result is that Finch looks big at 7/2.