With the men in blue from India set to start their tour of Australia in less than a month at the SCG, both teams have announced their squads for the limited-overs series.
Australia made a dominant start to their tour of South Africa last night by thrashing the Proteas in the first T20I on the back of an Ashton Agat hat trick and a solid batting performance.
On a Wanderers pitch that was two-paced in nature, Australia batted well to make an above-par score of 196 before their bowlers humiliated the home side, skittling them for 89.
In taking 5-24 from four overs Ashton Agar continued his transformation into a quality T20I bowler. Australian coach Justin Langer has backed Agar strongly since he took over in early 2018 and the left-arm spinner has rewarded him.
The West Australian has become a very consistent bowler for Australia, regularly choking the run rate through the middle overs. His T20I economy rate of 6.87 runs per over is elite.
Last night he built on the excellent work with the new ball begun by Mitchell Starc (1-23 from three overs) and Pat Cummins (2-13 from two overs). Starc’s figures do not reflect how menacing he was, swinging the white ball late at up to 150kmh and troubling all the SA batsmen.
He also took the key wicket of the Proteas’ most in-form batsman, Quinton de Kock, who was clean bowled in the first over by a jaffa of an outswinger.
After Cummins knocked over Rassie van der Dussen and JJ Smuts, Australia’s spin twins Agar and Adam Zampa finished off the Proteas.
Earlier, a wayward bowling display by the Proteas gave a leg up to the Aussies. SA sent down a whopping 12 wides and were far too short with the new ball. The home side clearly had a plan to target Australia’s top order with short balls and it backfired.
Very rarely did Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi pitch the ball up in the powerplay, despite earning swing on the odd occasion that they did. This suited Aaron Finch (42 from 27 balls) and Steve Smith (45 from 32 balls), who helped Australia sprint to 1-70 after six overs.
Directly after the powerplay, the introduction of spin slowed Australia’s progress. Left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi had Aaron Finch caught on the boundary. Meanwhile, left-arm finger spinner JJ Smuts saw an easy catch in the outfield turfed off his bowling when Matt Wade (18 from 11 balls) miscued a slog sweep.
Having made his name as an opener in T20s, Wade did not look comfortable faced with the foreign task of starting his innings against two spinners with the field set deep. Three balls later Smith was stumped down the leg side against Shamsi and Australia had suddenly lost 3-33.
Then Alex Carey (27 from 22 balls), Agar (20 from 9 balls) and Mitch Marsh (19 from 14 balls) all chipped in to push Australia to a very good total.
The fact Australia made a score of that size without the presence of T20I superstar Glenn Maxwell is a good sign for the Aussies. Finch again looked in great nick, while Smith is continuing to enhance his reputation as a top-order T20I batsman. Smith has a very good record batting at number three in this format – 385 runs at 48, with a very swift strike rate of 150.
While the Aussies bulldozed SA last night they will be well aware any team boasting champions like Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Raba can rebound fiercely. The second T20I is on Sunday in Port Elizabeth.