Preview | Australia vs. South Africa Test series

AUSTRALIA will face South Africa at Test level for the first time since 2018’s Sandpapergate scandal, with the three-match bilateral series getting under way in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Proteas’ 16-man squad already has a tour game under its belt since touching down on Australian shores, and promises to challenge the hosts’ batting lineup more so than recent visitors, the West Indies.

We run you through all you need to know ahead of the highly anticipated battle between the ICC’s first and third ranked sides.


First Test – December 17-21 @ Gabba, 11.20am AEDT
First Test – December 26-30 @ MCG, 10.30am AEDT
Third Test – January 4-8 @ SCG, 10.30am AEDT


Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Michael Neser, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner

South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Temba Bavuma, Gerald Coetzee, Theunis de Bruyn, Sarel Eree, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams, Khaya Zondo

Australian batters Marnus Labuschagne (left) and Travis Head | Image Credit: Mark Brake – Cricket Australia via Getty Images



The summer of Test cricket could not have begun much better for the hosts, having dominated the West Indies in a 2-0 series whitewash. Though the visitors showed some resistance in game one before going down by 164 runs, the margin ballooned out to 419 in game two at Adelaide Oval. The formidably deep Australian bowling attack fought through some resistance from the Windies’ top order, though the batting order largely cashed in across the two matches.

South Africa:

South Africa fared well in its sole tour match on the eve of the series, despite not playing to a result. The Proteas were in a strong position against the Cricket Australia XI, who reached 6-184 before tea on the final day, chasing 426.

Among the top performances, opener Dean Elgar compiled 109 in the first innings, supported by 80 from wicketkeeper Kyle Verreyne. Rassie van der Dussen (95) and Theunis de Bruyn (88) also made positive strides in their side’s second innings, while middle-order mainstay Temba Bavuma returned from an elbow injury to contribute 28.

On the bowling side of things, pacemen Lungi Ndidi and Kagiso Rabada showed ominous signs of their talent. The former notched 3-26 off nine overs first up, and the latter collected 2-22 off six in the second bowling innings. Both are part of a fast bowling quartet considered one of, if not the best in the world at present.



It is expected that South Africa’s bowling lineup will offer many more threats than its batters, so looking inversely, Australia’s top and middle order have a key role to play. Left-hand opening pair Usman Khawaja and David Warner will be made to protect the likes of Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith for as long as possible, and doing so allows counter-attackers Travis Head and Cameron Green to put pressure on the bowlers late in each innings.

After Labuschagne, Head is arguably the form batter of the side, having just bashed 175 against the West Indies. He looms as a key pivot piece who can extract quick runs should the top four be knocked over quickly. Conversely, he can also put the cherry on top of strong starts with his aggressive strokeplay.

South Africa:

South Africa’s bowling attack is to die for, and one man in particular will be up for the battle. Fiery paceman, Rabada has an exceptional record against Australia, having collected 38 wickets in seven Tests against the world number one. Among that total are three five-wicket hauls.

Though he looms as the frontman, the likes of Ngidi, Marco Jansen, and Anrich Nortje can also hit speeds of over 140kpm and will trouble the Aussie batters consistently. In a batting sense, Elgar is a key man atop the order given the question marks over his side’s top six. He’s a fighter, and will need to be strong in the face of Australia’s accomplished attack.


It’s always hard to go against Australia at home, and while their batters will be better tested, the strength of the hosts’ bowling attack against a potentially vulnerable South African top six should prove the difference.

Australia 2-0.

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