If, like me, you’re fed up of T20 and haven’t watched any of the Champions League, then good times are around the corner. If you love your T20 cricket then they’re almost at an end.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought the World T20 had its moments. The rain rather spoiled things, though, and there was only one team score above 200. It didn’t rock my world.
As much as I enjoyed the languid brutality of Chris Gayle and the all round excellence of Shane Watson, I’ve been yearning for a red ball and white kits.
The two contests that I’ve been waiting for like a child on Christmas Eve are Australia hosting South Africa and England visiting India (more of which another time).
South Africa, the newly crowned world number ones, couldn’t have asked for a tougher first-up assignment to prove their credentials. A straightforward trip to Bangladesh or welcoming New Zealand or the WIndies would surely have been Graeme Smith’s preferred option, just so that his side can enjoy their status a little.
Australia see themselves very much as a side on the up under Michael Clarke and who can blame them? They haven’t lost a series since England’s visit in 2010/11.
Their run since then has been largely impressive, although last winter’s 1-1 series draw at home to New Zealand was the low point with defeat in Hobart.
They side also got a 1-1 draw in a memorable two match series in South Africa, defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 and West Indies 2-0, both away, and gave India the hammering of all hammerings in a 4-0 whitewash last winter.
Australia have their sights locked on regaining the number one spot that was surrendered to India a couple of years back.
South Africa’s ascent to top billing was completed with an impressive 2-0 win in England following series wins in New Zealand and at home to Sri Lanka. Their three previous series were stalemates at home to Australia and India and a dull 0-0 draw in the Middle East against Pakistan.
So both sides are in prime form. Both sides have brilliant pace attacks and both sides have failed to quite solve the spinner conundrum; Australia post-Shane Warne, South Africa post-apartheid.
Imran Tahir looked like he might complete the Proteas’ bowling unit but he hasn’t quite reached the heights anticipated. Australia have chopped and changed with regularity of late and Nathan Lyon has been the recent choice, although Australia’s last Test was in April. We could see the return of either Michael Beer or Xavier Doherty, probably as back ups, although the left-arm orthodox Jon Holland is injured.
The key battles will be in the pace departments. South Africa’s seamers outgunned England’s and will be confident of repeating the trick Down Under. I’m confident they will, too, if only because I prefer their batting line-up.
Predicting recent encounters between these two has been akin to drawing lots. History, however, is on Australia’s side with 20 victories to South Africa’s seven on Australian soil.
With AB de Villiers carrying a knock, though, the strength in depth, or lack thereof, could expose South Africa.
Getting to the top is the easy part and, as England recently discovered, staying there is the challenge. Australia are surging back as an international force after a couple of abject years and a series win here would really prove that they’re moving in the right direction… I predict a narrow win to the hosts.
By Miles Reucroft