Your essential guide to the first Test between the Proteas and Australia at Kingsmead in Durban, which starts on Thursday.
This is set to be a fierce battle between two great Test-playing rivals.
The Proteas will feed off their 2-1 series win against India, while Australia come rolling in with momentum after claiming the Ashes 4-0.
What makes this match-up so intriguing is that whether these sides play home or away, the conditions are similar. We saw how the pitches suited pace during India’s tour here, so expect a pace barrage of two attacks, which match each other like-for-like.
Batsmen need to step up their performances to make this match competitive. But it won’t be easy for the Proteas, who need to stop the best Test batsman in the world, Steve Smith.
The Proteas will hope they can shatter Australia’s post-isolation unbeaten record in South Africa of five wins and two draws.
It’s uncertain what sort of pitch will be presented at Kingsmead, which has only seen a total of 22 Tests since 1994. The general consensus is that a slower pitch will be presented. The weather is also unpredictable in Durban. Rain comes and goes when it pleases, ignoring all weather forecasts.
One thing the Proteas will be certain of is Australia’s starting XI for the first Test. Uncommonly, Smith gave an inside scoop by naming an unchanged XI from the last Ashes clash.
Morne Morkel’s retirement announcement came at an awkward time. Much of the talk will be around the 33-year-old paceman whose swansong comes against opponents he received his best match figures of 8-196 against. He will be at the heart of the battle as two of the most deadly pace attacks collide.
A slow pitch is expected in Durban. Both captains agreed that a slow wicket is likely, with spin playing an important role as the match unfolds.
Players to Watch:
There is no doubt that AB de Villiers will have a huge impact on the outcome of the match. The last time the two sides met was in 2016 and De Villiers was absent. Both Smith and Nathan Lyon labelled De Villiers as ‘world class’. With an average of 48.26 against the Aussies, De Villiers will need to be contained to give Australia an advantage.
Steve Smith’s scalp will be desired by all the Proteas’ bowlers. He is the No 1-ranked Test batsman and can single-handedly take the game away from any team. The Australia skipper comes off a magnificent Ashes series, scoring 687 runs, which included three centuries and two fifties. His career average of 63.75, which is the second-highest ever, should frighten any opponent.
Du Plessis admitted that the Proteas have yet to decide whether to play seven or six batsmen.
South Africa XI (probable): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Vernon Philander, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lungi Ngidi.
Steven Smith has confirmed Australia will use the same XI that won the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
Australia XI: 1 Cameron Bancroft, 2 David Warner, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Shaun Marsh, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Nathan Lyon.
– Australia have not played a Test in Durban since 2009. The late Phillip Hughes made his name in Test cricket in that series, scoring a century in each innings of his second Test match.
– Morkel needs six wickets to reach 300 in Tests. He would be the fifth South African to the mark, behind Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Allan Donald.
– Australia are unbeaten in 12 series out of 14 between the sides in South Africa. The visitors have won 10 and drawn two. Post-isolation, Australia have five series wins, with two draws.
What they said:
Faf du Plessis press conference:
Steve Smith press conference:
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