Australia and South Africa renew hostilities when they kick off a three-match Test series at The Gabba in the early hours of Saturday morning. Both teams have selected their best squads for this enthralling series with World Test Championship points at stake. Lwanele Poswayo looks at the players to watch for the series.
Travis Head has definitely repaid the faith that the Australian selectors have shown in him. He is currently averaging 51.20 in Tests this year. His average in 2021 was just as impressive at 62.00 after a slow start to his Test career.
The likes of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith are the players that everyone talks about but Head has quietly gone about his business. He had a fabulous series against the West Indies this month with scores of 99, 175 and 38* in his three innings. I expect him to have another fantastic end to the year like he did in the Ashes last year. The South African bowlers will have to be on top of their game against an in-form Head.
The 33-year-old played a starring role in last year’s Ashes after he took a remarkable 6 for 7 against England at the MCG. He played his first game since the Ashes against the West Indies this month and impressed again with the pink ball.
Boland has taken 21 wickets at an astonishing average of just 10.33 from four Tests and has become Australia’s fourth pace bowler behind captain Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Hazlewood has been ruled out of the first Test and could miss the rest of the series with a side strain.
Boland will play a key role in this series in the absence of Hazlewood and is someone the Proteas’ batsmen have not seen before, which might cause them a few problems. Watch out for Scott Boland in this three-match series.
The South African wicket-keeper batsman hasn’t had the best start to his Test career. He averages 26.93 in 11 matches with one hundred to his name. Like Australia have done with Head, the South African selectors should do the same with Kyle Verreynne and show faith in him by giving him a consistent run of games.
He showed signs of his potential with a brilliant century against New Zealand earlier this year. His unbeaten 136 came against a strong Black Caps’ bowling unit on a tough wicket in an innings where no other batsman passed 50. This is a big series for him as he’s discovered some form having made a double hundred in domestic cricket recently. He then backed that up with 80 in the warm-up fixture.
He will be key for the Proteas in the middle order as I expect the top order to struggle against a quality Australian attack.
This will be Anrich Nortje’s first series in Australia and he’ll be licking his lips at the prospect of bowling on Australian pitches. We saw how effective he can be in Australia at this year’s T20 World cup where his pace and bounce caused all sorts of problems.
He did well in England last summer, bowling with terrific pace to claim 10 wickets in three matches on pitches that probably didn’t suit him. The quick and bouncy surfaces in Australia will certainly suit him so I expect him to have a great series.