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07 Mar 2018

South Africa vs Australia: Second Test squads, preview, and predictions

Overview 

Australia won the first Test of their tour of South Africa by 118 runs after a disappointing display of cricket from the home side. The Aussies scored 351 in the first innings, and bowled the Proteas out for approximately half that. They then capitalized on the sizeable lead to give the home side a target beyond their reach. 

The Warner-de Kock fight has quickly overtaken the spotlight since after the match. The first match also had Lyon undermining the spirit of the game while trying to run-out de Villiers. The last thing these teams need is to be distracted by non-cricket related incidents, especially South Africa. Can they bounce back, or will Australia go 2-0 up?

Squads 

Australia 

Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers

South Africa

Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Willem Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada

Where the teams stand 

Australia 

Australia’s collective batting performance in the first innings set up the match for them. Three players notched half-centuries, with Mitchell Marsh just 4 short of a century. Others also chipped in with 35-40 odd scores, leading the team to 351. Warner being back amongst the runs is a positive sign for the Aussies. The Marsh brothers have been consistent for a while now, and Smith is ever-reliable at number four. The visitors have a deep batting lineup running till at least number 8. Not too long ago Pat Cummins was putting in some inspired innings of 40s for his side, and Starc fulfilled the same role in the last match with a handy 35. Bancroft scored a half century in the second innings, leaving only Khawaja, who failed to make his mark. The visitors will take that any day regardless. 

The excellent batting was complimented by some brilliant bowling. Starc took 9 wickets over the two innings, Hazelwood took 4, and Lyon took 3. Lyon was the one who enforced the collapse in the first innings for his side, after which Starc wreaked havoc. These four bowlers have been the constant attack for the Aussies for a while now, and they have been very successful as an attack. Smith’s captaincy will also play an important role in terms of how he rotates these four bowlers. A robust bowling attack and a performing batting lineup are both good signs before the second Test, but consistency will be key. 

South Africa 

Six of the South African top 7 scored 80 runs on aggregate in the first innings. de Villiers scored 71 himself. In the second innings, six of the top seven scored 140 runs on aggregate. Markram scored 143 alone, and 83 of the 140 came from Quentin de Kock. These statistics make it pretty obvious why South Africa failed to overcome the Aussies. The Proteas need more than a couple of their batsmen performing to win against a team like Australia. This is the second Test they have lost on the trot after India beat them in the third Test between them. If they keep batting like this, the streak is only going to extend for longer. 

Keshav Maharaj was excellent for his side, taking 9 wickets in two innings’. However, their bowling failed to stop the flow of runs against India as well, and the same happened against Australia too. They are perhaps the only side who do not dominate with the ball at home, a shame considering the genuinely enormous talent in their ranks. Rabada and Philander will be essential to the Proteas’ cause while Morkel plays one of his last Tests for his country. To be fair, they did bowl well in the second innings, but by then it was too late anyway. Only consistency separates the two sides, and that is the problem.

Prediction

Australia win. South Africa are simply repeating their mistakes from the series against India, a bad sign for an otherwise good team. Australia's collective performance tilts the odds heavily in their favour.