Fireworks expected as Australia host South Africa

The series pits the second-ranked Proteas against the third-ranked hosts with the strain in relations from Australia’s hardfought test triumph in South Africa in March sure to make it anything but a gentle warm up.


Even without the residual bad feeling, the series should get off to an explosive start when quicks Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn face off in the first two matches on the pace-friendly WACA pitch in Perth.

Australian Johnson, rejuvenated in the last year after a couple of seasons in the doldrums, has always prospered at his home ground even when his form was at its worst.

South Africa’s Steyn, whose “feud” with Australia skipper Michael Clarke is behind the ill-feeling between the sides, leads an attack which can be expected to provide a feast for fans of raw pace.

Steyn has never played an ODI at the ground but took a match-haul of seven for 112 when South Africa ruined Ricky Ponting’s farewell test with a thumping victory in 2012.

It could be the batting form of the respective captains, however, that decides which team takes a confidence boost into the final preparations for the Feb 14-March 29 World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

AB de Villiers’s rich vein of form has elevated him to the number one spot in ODI batting rankings and the 30-year-old has an average of more than 61 in his 19 ODIs against Australia.

Australia skipper Clarke, meanwhile, missed the 3-0 one-day sweep of Pakistan through injury and returned from the 2-0 test series reverse against the same opponents facing barely credible question marks over his captaincy.

While the Australian batting line-up is fairly settled, a battery of bowlers will be auditioning for a place alongside Johnson in the attack.

James Faulkner and Mitchell Starc have been left out of the first two matches to get some red ball practice, giving the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood and Kane Richardson a chance to stake a claim.

South Africa have a more settled side but the absence of injured all rounder JP Duminy should offer a chance for the less experienced Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien.

The series starts with the Perth clashes on Friday and Sunday before concluding with matches in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)