Several head-to-head battles within the war will make for intriguing subplots during the Twenty20 International series between Australia and South Africa, particularly at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday.
Wicketkeeper-batsmen: Ben Dunk v Quinton de Kock
De Kock has become as permanent at the top of the order as he is behind the stumps, while Dunk has been selected in a position he hasn’t even secured on a full-time basis for Queensland. The hard-hitting Australian, however, struck a quickfire 229 not out in a high-scoring List A fixture at the North Sydney Oval recently. This whirlwind vigil was enough for the national selectors to overlook his wicketkeeping inconsistencies. De Kock, meanwhile, needs to prove there is more to the man that raced to 1 000 ODI runs in record time but hasn’t really contributed with the bat significantly since. Winner: De Kock.
Burgeoning all-rounders: Kane Richardson v Farhaan Behardien
Richardson contributes more with the ball than the bat, while Behardien is stronger with willow rather than ball in hand. Both, though, sport plenty of ambition to improve their weaker code. The duo, too, share status among the nations’ fringe ODI cricketers – and a handful of outstanding performances in this T20I series could see them secure relative permanence in the longer version. Time, certainly, is more in favour of the 23-year-old Richardson than it is for the 31-year-old Behardien. Winner: Richardson.
Captains: Aaron Finch v JP Duminy
George Bailey’s resignation from the captaincy and the decision to rest Faf du Plessis has pushed two fresh faces to the Aussies and Proteas’ respective helms. Neither player nor country want their primary roles with the bat hampered by the additional responsibility and Duminy, too, has his pivotal role with the ball to consider. Finch’s leadership will likely mirror particular facets of his aggression at the top of the order, while his opposite number’s cool, calm calculation in the middle order will be transferred to the captaincy. Winner: Duminy.
Rookies: Nathan Reardon v Reeza Hendricks
Reardon and Hendricks have paid their dues across franchise cricket, with opportunity now knocking to make the step up to the big stage. Hendricks was one of the few roses among a slew of thorns during South Africa’s defeat to a young Cricket Australia XI recently. The composition of the squad, sans the services of AB de Viliers or Hashim Amla, suggests he will walk straight into the playing XI too. Reardon, though, might have to take a backseat to Nic Maddinson or Cameron White until match two or three. Winner: Hendricks.
Fast bowlers: Pat Cummins v Marchant de Lange
Both very prone to injury and the subjects of lengthy lay-offs, Cummins and De Lange return to challenge their fellow incumbent seamers. The quicker bowlers, in hard and fast conditions, have a tendency to travel for plenty of expense in this format. Taking pace off the ball, then, is going to prove key. The Australian certainly has a more fitting slower delivery than the South African. There is, however, a lot to be said for steepling bounce – which the beanpole De Lange will certainly exploit. Winner: De Lange.
By Jonhenry Wilson