at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Durban - Shortly after midday on Tuesday, the ground staff removed the covers at a gloomy Kingsmead.
Beneath lay a moist, green-tinged T20 pitch that should whet the pace bowlers’ appetites in a format that is designed to suit the batsmen.
The Dolphins recently clouted 214 in a Ram Slam match here – the second highest total yet recorded at Kingsmead – but that surely won’t be repeated by either the Proteas or Australia today – assuming they get on the field at all.
The two teams haven’t had any luck in the three-match series so far.
The rain, which washed out the first match in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, has travelled up the east coast and now threatens Wednesday’s game.
And with the forecast for Friday’s match in Centurion also of concern, inclement weather could call time on the entire series.
Hopefully that will not be the case, but, as Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis and Australia’s Shane Watson pointed out on Tuesday, both teams will have two warm-up matches in Bangladesh that ought to be of more value, given that players will be adjusting to the conditions they will face in the ICC World Twenty20 in two weeks.
Du Plessis made this point obliquely when he described leg-spinner Imran Tahir as a vital member of his squad.
“He’s as big a strike bowler as a Dale Steyn is to our team, so his performance in the World Cup is going to hugely determine how well we do.”
Du Plessis hardly needed to add that it’s highly unlikely Tahir will play in Durban on Wednesday, or at Centurion.
It will be interesting to see if Australia take the same tack, with 43-year-old leg-spinner Brad Hogg standing to become the oldest cricketer to play a T20 international if he gets chosen for either of the remaining two matches.
Notwithstanding the lack of game time, Du Plessis felt that his squad were ready for the World Cup.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that teams that do well have guys that are in form.
“If you look at our batting line-up, each one of us is in form, and that’s a huge plus.
“If you go with that, and then you have two or three guys who have a great tournament, that’s when you put yourself right up there to win.
“From the bowling perspective, the guys have also done well. Even though some of them are being rested (Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel), those who’ve come in have had excellent domestic T20 competitions.”
The squad has gradually been ticking the boxes in recent months.
“Our preparation has been fantastic. We made that little goal for ourselves that we wanted to be No 1 or No 2 14 months ago, and we did that. I think we were No 6 when we started the process.
“So we’ve had a great build-up, and everything’s running according to plan.
“Hopefully we can just get some game time and we’ll be ready to go.”
Du Plessis described Australia as “a particularly dangerous” team, especially with their main strikers David Warner and Aaron Finch up front.
“But guys like that will always offer you chances, and it’s important for us to try and get wickets early.”
From a strategic point of view, the series is of less immediate importance to the Proteas because they are not grouped with Australia in the World Cup.
“But it’s important to win this week because we want to take a mental edge over them into Bangladesh, in case we meet them in the semi-finals or the final.”
Asked to comment on South Africa’s batting order, and how best to position his most destructive batsmen, Du Plessis said the issue was settled.
“It’s important that guys become familiar with their roles, and that we don’t chop and change the order too often, something that I feel is very dangerous. We’ve had a very settled top six, and it’s been really successful for us.”
He confirmed that the experiment of playing AB de Villiers at the top of the order would not be repeated in Bangladesh.
“AB is such a valuable player in the middle order, and on the subcontinent that’s the period of the game when there is the most pressure on and it’s hardest to bat, so that’s when you need your best player.”
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Kyle Abbott, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Brad Hodge, Shane Watson, Daniel Christian, George Bailey (capt), Brad Haddin (w/k), James Faulkner, Moises Henriques, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Starc, Cameron White, Nathan Coulter-Nile
Umpires: Adrian Holdstock (SA) and Shaun George (SA)
TV umpire: Johan Cloete
Match referee: Chris Broad