One of cricket’s biggest rivalries is upon us as Australia and South Africa gear up for a highly anticipated Test series. The first of three Tests gets underway on Saturday at The Gabba, and both teams will be looking to get off to a winning start. In anticipation of the series, Lwanele Poswayo picks his combined best XI, with the number one Test team in the world Australia occupying the majority of his team.
Australia dominate the top six in this side, with all their batsmen apart from Alex Carey averaging above 40 with none of the Proteas’ batters averaging above that. The bowling department was a bit more difficult to choose from with both sides boasting, arguably, the two best bowling attacks in the world in Test cricket.
This team is selected based on current form in Tests and the overall quality of the players.
Dean Elgar (South Africa) – Captain
Mat 79 Runs 4971 Ave 38.83 HS 199
The Proteas captain has the highest average of all South African batsmen and will be the key if they are to put up a fight against a quality Australian attack. His grit and determination are second to none and will be needed as he aims to lead his side to a famous series win.
He makes this side ahead of the out-of-form David Warner who’ll also be eager to show his class in this series. Elgar also captains this side ahead of the inexperienced Australian captain Pat Cummins. He’s led this Proteas’ side brilliantly since his appointment and will need to showcase all of his leadership skills in this series.
Usman Khawaja (Australia)
Mat 53 Runs 3953 Ave 47.05 HS 174
Usman Khawaja makes this team because of his fantastic current form and consistency. He’s had a great year scoring 1066 runs at an average of 82 in his 9 matches. His return to the Australian side has seen him regain the form that he showed earlier in his career and will be a threat to the South African side at the top of the order.
Both David Warner and Sarel Erwee have not been impressive in recent times, therefore Khawaja opens with Elgar.
Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
Mat 30 Runs 3041 Ave 60.82 HS 215
Arguably the best player in this team (on current form) Labuschagne has been in outstanding form. He’s been a find for the Aussies ever since making his debut in 2018 and has slotted into that number 3 role seamlessly. The South African-born batter was brilliant in the recently concluded series against the West Indies, scoring 3 centuries on the trot, including a double ton in the first innings of the first Test. He is now the number-one-ranked Test batter in the world and rightfully so.
His average of 60.82 speaks to the quality of the man and is a player the Proteas could do with at the top of the order. He is an obvious pick at number three and I expect him to have a great series against the country of his birth.
Steve Smith (Australia)
Mat 89 Runs 8416 Ave 60.98 HS 239
The number 2 ranked Test batter in the world, Steve Smith, has shown that class is permanent with his performances in 2022. This year, he averages 62.41 which is just over his career average of 60.98 which shows the quality he has. On his day, he is the best batsman in this format and will be eager to prove that in this series.
Just like Labuschagne, he comes into this series in red-hot form after his double century against the West Indies which saw him equal Don Bradman’s 29 hundreds for Australia. Smith is another obvious pick in this team with none of the South African batsmen coming close to him.
Travis Head (Australia)
Mat 30 Runs 1913 Ave 44.48 HS 175
I’d love to have Temba Bavuma in this side because he’s been South Africa’s best batsman in Tests in the past two seasons, along with Dean Elgar. But I have to go with the in-form Travis Head and for me, one of the players to watch in this series. Australia’s faith in Head has certainly paid off. He had a brilliant Ashes series last year and has been superb again in 2022, scoring 512 runs at an average of 51.20 in 8 matches.
His form, quality and career number get him into this team ahead of Bavuma and the likes of Rassie van de Dussen.
Alex Carey (Australia) – WK
Mat 12 Runs 500 Ave 33.33 HS 93
This one was a bit more difficult because Carey bats at 7 for Australia with Cameron Green at 6. I’ve gone with Carey ahead of Kyle Verreynne as the wicket-keeper batsman mainly because of his better record with the bat. Both of them have had average starts to their Test careers with Carey averaging 33.33 and Verreynne 26.93.
They are both very good wicket-keepers so I’ve gone with the one with the better batting record, which is Alex Carey.
Marco Jansen (South Africa)
Mat 7 Runs 200 Ave 22.22 HS 48 / Wkts 37 Ave 18.59 BBI 5/37
The two options for the all-rounder spot are Marco Jansen and Cameron Green. I’ve gone with the player that I feel is better with the ball, which is Marco Jansen. The fact that he’s left-handed also gets Jansen into the side to bring variation in the attack. The South African has had a fantastic start to his Test career taking 37 wickets in just 7 matches at an average of 18.59 and a strike rate of 34.0.
He’s also decent with the bat and will only get better. He averages 22.22 and has shown signs of being a world-class all-rounder in the future.
Pat Cummins (Australia)
Mat 44 Wkts 202 Ave 21.50 BBI 6/23
Another obvious choice from the Australian side is Pat Cummins. He’s been a consistent performer for the Baggy Greens and has been the number-one-ranked Test bowler for a few years now. He will be the leader of this attack and will bring his skill and accuracy.
Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
Mat 55 Wkts 257 Ave 22.46 BBI 7/112
KG Rabada should be higher in the Test rankings as he’s produced world-class performances for the Proteas consistently. He’s been South Africa’s best bowler this year and was fantastic in the series win against India and the 1-1 draw away to New Zealand.
His strike rate in 2022 is 35.3 which is the best his managed in his career so far. He has also taken 37 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 21.97. Rabada’s career numbers speak for themselves and he will be the key man for South Africa in this series.
Anrich Nortje (South Africa)
Mat 15 Wkts 57 Ave 27.52 BBI 6/56
Anrich Nortje, Josh Hazlewood Lungi Ngidi or Mitchell Starc? This was a difficult choice, especially picking between Norje and Hazlewood. I’ve once again gone with the form man in Nortje, who’s improving at a rapid rate in international cricket. His pace has always caused problems for batters which was evident in the series against England earlier this year where he caused the English batters all sorts of problems.
He gets into this team as the enforcer with his pace, bounce and accuracy.
Nathan Lyon (Australia)
Mat 112 Wkts 450 Ave 31.78 BBI 8/50
As much as I love Keshav Maharaj, this one was not a difficult choice. Even though both Nathan Lyon and Maharaj are in-form, I have to go with the Aussie. Lyon has been an unbelievable performer for his country since making his debut in 2011 against Sri Lanka where he struck with his first delivery when he had Kumar Sangakkara caught at slip.
He’s coming off a brilliant series against the Windies where he had best figures of 6/128 in the first Test. He is a player the South African batsmen will have to watch as he is capable of changing matches with his off spin.