Johannesburg - The good news is that the meteorologists have forecast enough dry time for 40 overs to be bowled at SuperSport Park on Friday evening for the final T20 International of a curtailed series.
So the chances are limited that there’ll be another glorified backyard game as took place in Durban on Wednesday, and hopefully when the teams depart for the ICC World T20 in Bangladesh this weekend, they’ll have some data from which to work.
It’s been a frustrating week for both teams – apparently both captains had agreed not to play that seven-over ‘thrash about’ but match referee Chris Broad instructed them to entertain the Kingsmead crowd. Little could be gleaned from the match, other than the fact that Dave Warner is still in form and Brad Hodge is a really good finisher.
What then for this evening? South Africa will in all likelihood give one of their spinners, probably Imran Tahir, a run, with Kyle Abbott, the best of the seam bowlers on Wednesday, likely to sit out because he’s not part of the squad of 15 for the World T20.
Dale Steyn (hamstring) and Morné Morkel (shoulder) are still undergoing rehabilitation and South Africa’s coach Russell Domingo is counting on them to be ready for the team’s first game in Bangladesh against Sri Lanka next Saturday.
Tahir will be a key component of South Africa’s challenge at the tournament. Not only does he know the conditions there but he also provides skipper Faf du Plessis with an alternative attacking force through the middle overs.
At the 50-over World Cup in 2011, Tahir was a secret weapon unleashed on the opposition. He’s no longer much of a secret, and his abilities as a weapon have also waned. His returns in this season’s RamSlam T20 Challenge were modest – just three wickets from eight matches, with an economy rate of 7.65 – but the upheaval in the Lions camp would have proved a major distraction and would not have aided his fragile confidence which took a hammering, along with his bowling figures, in the first Test against India at the Wanderers.
Aaron Phangiso is the other spinning option, and based on his domestic form this season – 11 wickets with an economy rate of 6.91 – should be the first choice. However, while he probably provides greater control, he lack’s Tahir’s variety.
AB de Villiers is another candidate for a recall, having had a few days off after the Test series, with Farhaan Behardien likely to sit out. His return will add to the much-vaunted power-hitting middle-order, which Domingo and the selectors are banking on to take South Africa all the way in Bangladesh.
“AB, Dave (Miller), JP (Duminy) and Albie (Morkel) are all really destructive players. That aspect is well looked after,” Domingo said.
They’re a flexible group too, with De Villiers, Duminy and Miller all frontline batsmen, able to stabilise an innings should the openers fail before prospering later.
The Australians would love another series win in this country before heading to the World T20, but ultimately Friday night’s match means little in relation to the examinations both teams will face in Bangladesh.
Conditions will be vastly different and with the pitches in Bangladesh having played host to the Asia Cup recently and with a week’s pre-qualifying to be played next week, by the time Australia and South Africa open their campaigns the surfaces are likely to be low and slow.
SuperSport Park’s pitch will be anything but that on Friday night – two weeks of rain have meant the pitch has been prepared under a tent, so it should be lively. Most importantly, if the meteorologists can be believed it won’t rain. Play is due to start at 6pm.
Australia (from): George Bailey (capt), Daniel Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
South Africa (from): Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Morné Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.