However, across six previous World Cups in T20s, the two sides have met just once, in Colombo in 2012, with the Aussies running away with a victory.
As they open their Super 12 campaign of the T20 World Cup at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, it’s worth noting how the dynamics of both teams have changed.
Despite the Aussies having world class pacers in Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, and the South Africans having the battle-hardened Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, it’s spin that could potentially alter the fortunes of the contest. Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa will man that role for the 2010 finalists, while South Africa seem more blessed as they have the services of the reliable Keshav Maharaj and the freakish chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi, the leading wicket-taker in T20s this year and the World No. 1 bowler.
With it being a day game under sweltering heat, on a large outfield and no threat of dew, expect both the sides to dish out generous quota of spin. That leaves Aussies with a problem. Who will they leave out among the top three seamers in Hazlewood (super impressive for CSK in UAE), Starc and Cummins (hasn’t played since April 2021)?
They have another elephant in the room to address. David Warner. A colossus for Australia, but currently in woeful form. In UAE he has notched up scores of 0, 2, 0, 1 if you consider IPL and warm-up matches.
Skipper Aaron Finch, with whom Warner has shared many a match-winning partnership, threw his weight behind the left-hander. “I’m backing Davey’s ability,” Finch, who is coming back from knee surgery, stressed.
“I’m backing his judgment. If you look at his World Cup history, it’s just bloody good (not in T20 WCs though. He’s averaging 21.50 in 23 games). So, would he have liked more runs? Absolutely. Everyone would like more runs all the time but he’s one of the greatest players Australia’s ever produced and I’ve got no doubts that come game one he will be up and firing ready to go,” he asserted and added that the Aussies will go in with seven batsmen, four bowlers and an all-rounder.
South Africa will also bank on openers Quinton de Kock and skipper Temba Bavuma to blaze away in the powerplays. The first six overs is where both teams would want to own the contest as stats in the IPL showed that the teams scoring 50 or more in the powerplays ended up winning 23 of the 30 games played in UAE.
For pyrotechnics later, they have David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen and Henrich Klaasen. The consolidation can come from Aiden Markram.
The Aussies have generally held sway in global contests between these two teams, but they have lost their last four T20I series and eight of the last 10 T20I games.
South Africa look less bruised and more prepared. Their skipper Bavuma looked quietly confident when he said, “Clashes against Australia have been full of fire and with only five games to play, neither side can afford a bad start.”