Ed Hawkins previews the first T20 from Johannesburg on Friday - but is wary of rain spoiling things...
"Rain could help or hinder. Will it make batting tougher? Will reduced overs making it a formality thrash for the chaser?"
South Africa v Australia
Friday 21 February, 16:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
South Africa have to cut loose
South Africa are rebuilding in every format and they will reckon they performed well against England in a 2-1 defeat. The South African board seem to think so, too. Quinton De Kock has got the skipper job full time after Faf Du Plessis felt the winds of change.
With Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi forming a decent bowling unit, covering experience, potency, smarts and variation, the focus is on batting. In this year's World Cup South Africa are surely going to have to finally plot a course for recklessness. Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller have the appetite for chaos but they will need more in Australia.
Reeza Hendricks has been discarded in favour of Temba Bavuma, whose busy style may look nice now but not so much on faster pitches in Australia. It's also a shame that Janne Malan has not been given a chance. Bavuma misses this game. That could be a blessing if JJ Smuts or Rassie Van Der Dussen open and are given licence to attack. Du Plessis is also available.
Possible XI De Kock, Van der Dussen, Klaasen, Du Plessis, Miller, Pretorius, Phehlukwayo, Steyn, Shamsi, Ngidi, Rabada
Australia return to the scene of the crime. This will be the first occasion since the ban meted out to Steve Smith and David Warner for ball tampering that the Aussies have been in South Africa, adding extra heat to a contest which, historically, needs a fire hose on standby.
Warner and Smith come with differing abilities in this format. The former can win a game on his own, the latter still has to prove he should not be replaced by a gun hitter. Glenn Maxwell's elbow surgery keeps the pressure on.
Maxwell balances the whole side and the batting order could be a mess. Matthew Wade or D'Arcy Short, at 3, will surely have to bat out of position. Possibly Mitch Marsh, too, who earned a recall having shone at No 4 for Scorchers.
With the focus now very much on T20, Australia look incredibly strong. They could leave out Kane Richardson and Sean Abbott. There's no room in the squad for the likes of Travis Head, Nathan Coulter-Nile or AJ Tye.
Probable XI Finch, Warner, Short, Smith, Marsh, Carey, Agar, Cummins, Starc, Zampa, J Richardson
Weather could derail runs bet
There's a fifty-fifty split in matches under lights on toss results but many might suspect chasing will be preferred because of The Wanderers' reputation for being a true surface until the death. Recent history isn't so sure. The last five scores in those matches (1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second, most recent first) read: 153-1/219-1/202-1/166-2/118-1.
In this year's Mzansi Super League, the pitch seemed good for batting despite the hapless Jozi Stars. They managed to post 171 in defeat by Paarl Rocks, the Giants 'chased' 108 with more than ten overs spare and the Blitz held on by 15 after notching a massive 213.
It's a shame the weather forecast looks poor (rain looks likely to delay the toss and chip away at overs). But in a full game, with Australia bating first, it could well be wise to book big prices for 190 or 200 or more. We shy away from doing the same with South Africa because despite batting well against England, this Aussie attack is gun.
This week's episode of Cricket...Only Bettor reveals the most reliable batsmen and bowlers top top in the Pakistan Super League
Aussies to chase
As discussed in the South Africa-England series, the home team's strength is to post competitive scores and then turn the screw. But here's the rub...on a tacky surface.
South Africa's record in a chase is a burgeoning trend which they don't want to write home about and, like most teams, they will struggle to keep things tight if the wicket is like glass. Rain could help or hinder. Will it make batting tougher? Will reduced overs making it a formality thrash for the chaser?.
Still, we're not sure we want to get involved at 7/52.42. Australia are 5/71.69. The Aussies prefer chasing (ten wins in 16 on two-year data) and if they come up to 4/51.80 in play with the toss their way, they represent a play.
Finch versus Warner
De Kock, who managed one win on the top bat market in the three games against England, gets 21/10 jolly status with Sportsbook. Next best is Smuts and Van Der Dussen at 7/2. Heinrich Klaasen, powerful in defeat at Centurion last time, is a floater in the order it would seem and is 13/2.
Aaron Finch pips David Warner as favourite for top Aussie at 12/5 versus 13/5. Smith looks a poor wager at 7/2. Short is 10/3 and Wade 9/2.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back Australia in-play at 4/51.80 or better chasing