It has reached the stage where South Africa want to time to speed up. They are on a hot streak that they will want to keep burning into the World T20 but may be secretly worried that it will fizzle out by the time they get there. They have peaked too early before.
It has also reached the stage where Australia want time to slow down. They’re only just starting to figure out their plans ahead of the World T20 and they’ve still got some work to do. Who to open with? How many allrounders to field? And they’ve only got two more matches to get it right.
In the middle of all that it has reached the stage where another series could be decided. South Africa are already one up and victory in Johannesburg will ensure they can add a third limited-overs trophy to their cabinet this summer. It’s not quite the cup they are really after but it will do nonetheless. Australia don’t have the same obsession with silverware – they have more than enough of it anyway – but have already lost a T20 series to India this year and are under pressure to take it to a decider in Cape Town next Wednesday.
South Africa WWWWW (last five completed games, most recent first)
In the spotlight
It’s rare for a player to be under scrutiny for two matches in a row but because Dale Steyn did not play in Durban, he will occupy the hot seat again. South Africa insisted Steyn was fit to play but the chose to bench to him to give the attack that has performed well for them over the last few months another chance and they did not disappoint. Now, Steyn has to play to determine his availability for the World T20 and it could prove more of a disruption than anything else… unless of course, Steyn is back to his destructive best.
Peter Nevill made no promises about being able to offer anything more than good glovework ahead of the series and followed through with that in the first match. While he was nifty behind the stumps, he did not provide much in front of them and with Australia deep in the throes of a middle-order collapse, he only added to it. Nevill has been picked purely as a specialist wicketkeeper but the nature of T20 cricket will demand he also provides something with the bat and this could be his chance to show what that is.
South Africa fielded what Faf du Plessis called their first-choice team in Durban and their success will make it difficult to make changes, but Russell Domingo’s request that Dale Steyn play in at least two matches in the series means they have to. Steyn could come in at Kyle Abbott’s expense. Hashim Amla could return to open the batting and Farhaan Behardien may displace one of JP Duminy or Rilee Rossouw in the middle order.
South Africa (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 AB de Villiers (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 JP Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Rilee Rossouw/Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 David Wiese, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir
If Australia insist on David Warner at one-drop, Shane Watson is lurking in the wings to open the batting with Aaron Finch. James Faulkner and Josh Hazlewood both sat out in Durban and, with the series on the line, may return to the XI. Adam Zampa’s impressive T20I debut may mean Ashton Agar has to wait for his.
Australia (probable) 1 Usman Khawaja/Shane Watson, 2 Aaron Finch 3 David Warner, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Peter Nevill (wk), 8 John Hastings/James Faulkner, 9 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10 Josh Hazlewood/Andrew Tye, 11 Adam Zampa
Pitch and conditions
While Durban provided an almost subcontinent experience, Johannesburg could be the complete opposite. The altitude means the ball will fly through the air faster and the surface – traditionally packed with pace, bounce, and runs – is unlikely to feature as many cracks. At least it will match much of Indian conditions for heat, with temperatures in the mid-30s with no afternoon thunderstorm to cool things down.
Stats and trivia
- The Wanderers has hosted more of South Africa’s home T20Is than any other ground. Of the 15 fixtures they played there, South Africa have won 11
- Aaron Finch needs 86 more runs to reach 1,000 T20I runs
“Playing in such big grounds and around big crowds always feels like a real honour. That definitely motivates me and probably gives me another 10% to do well.”
The Wanderers is sold out and the crowd can expect another big effort from entertainer Imran Tahir
“We’ve been criticised over the last few months over our fielding in all formats. The effort we’ve been putting in over the last couple of weeks leading up to this tour has been huge, and I think it’s showing.”
Aaron Finch explains how Australia are focusing on improving all aspects of their game
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
Source – espncricinfo