Australia commences their hunt for the number two ranking in Test cricket, in what promises to be a highly contested series against South Africa. The Proteas won’t be taking a backward step in their quest to end their hoodoo against the Aussies at home.
The South Africans have named a full-strength line-up in what could potentially be the last series for the likes of AB DeVillers, Hashim Amala and Morne Morkle. The South Africans will be wanting to send Morkle out a winner, with the South African paceman set to retire at the end of the series.
After a golden summer at home, Steve Smith and his men will feel confident heading into the First Test, with the Aussies not having lost a Test Series in South Africa since 1969-70. While South Africa accounted for India at home, they’ve only won a single Test in Durban since 2008.
The Aussies will be quietly confident of putting the Proteas under pressure from ball one in the first session.
On paper, South Africa have an incredible line-up, with Veron Philander batting at number seven as a bowling all-rounder.
Australia have a stellar record against the Proteas in Durban, winning their last two clashes and getting the better of the Protea’s much vaunted batting line-up. South Africa’s Hashim Amla has struggled to replicate his match-winning form at Kingsmead, with his average falling to 20.96 at this ground.
South Africa have a number of injury concerns in their squad heading into the Test, with Dale Steyn unlikely to take part until the back end of the series. Faf du Plessis, AB de Villers and Quinton De Kock are all returning to the side after an injury layoff.
Australia will be relying on Steve Smith to reproduce the form that has made him the number one batsmen in Test cricket. Smith came of age on the last tour to South Africa and averaged 137.40 against England in the Ashes series at home.
While the Proteas have one of the premier bowling attacks in the game, an expected slow pitch could play into the hands of the spinners. Nathan Lyon has emerged as the best off-spinner in world cricket over the last twelve months. Lyon was a key factor in Australia winning the Ashes and the GOAT was the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2017.
Tip: Australia to win ($2.25)
The Australian top order will need to be at the top of their game when they walk out to the crease against South Africa. The Aussies turned a corner in the Ashes against England, with a number of unheralded batsmen all making contributions with the willow.
Mitchell Marsh ($10) emerged from the Ashes with his reputation enhanced, with a maiden Test century in Perth, followed up with another big effort in the Sydney Test.
David Warner ($4.50) had a lean Ashes series by his lofty standards, the Aussie opener failed to hit a century, but found some form against New Zealand in the T20I series.
As the number one batsmen in Test cricket, Steve Smith will play a major role in deciding the outcome of the series. Smith further proved his credentials as Australia’s best batsman since Bradman, with 687 runs against England.
Tip: Back Steve Smith to be the top scorer for Australia ($3.10)
AB de Villiers ($4.25) is one of the best batsmen in world cricket, capable of destroying any attack on his day. The veteran has struggled to juggle the demands of playing across three formats, but will be hunting for a big innings against the Aussies.
Faf du Plessis ($5.50) has a strong record against the Aussie pace attack, the South African skipper scored a century in his last Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Dean Elgar ($4.75) looms as a genuine threat to the Australian bowling attack. Elgar’s ability to blunt the new ball will be crucial in allowing South Africa’s top order to put the Aussie bowling unit under pressure. The opening batsman averaged over 40 against India and has a top score of 127 against Australia.
Tip: Back Dean Elgar to be the top scorer for South Africa ($4.75)
Player of the Match
Pat Cummins warmed up for the first Test with four wickets and a half-century in the practice match against South Africa A.
The big quick is building his reputation as a bowling all-rounder, featuring in a number of crucial batting partnerships during the Ashes. Cummins took a career-best 6/79 on his debut against South Africa in 2011 in Johannesburg.
The conditions in Durban are tailor-made for Cummins to do some serious damage to the Protea’s batting line-up.
Tip: Back Pat Cummins to be Player of the Match ($10)