Australia vs South Africa: First Test Preview

Australia and South Africa gear up for the first of three Tests to be played at the WACA in Perth starting Thursday. 

South Africa and Australia will get one of the most eagerly-anticipated Test series of the calendar year underway on Thursday morning when they meet at the WACA in Perth.

Can the Proteas claim a surprise win without the services of AB de Villiers or will the Australians exact revenge for the 5-0 ODI humbling they received on South African soil? Let’s take a look:

South Africa vs Australia | 3 November – 7 November | WACA, Perth | Australia

To Win Match
Australia 19/20 | Draw 33/10 | South Africa 2/1

The Australian team as well as their cricket-loving public will be smarting following their unceremonious 5-0 thumping in South Africa. To add to this, seven of the players who toured South Africa for the ODIs form part of Australia’s squad for the first Test.

Steve Smith will be thrilled to welcome back two of his best quicks for this series in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who will be complemented by the likes of Mitchell Marsh, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon. While it’s always better to compare apples with apples in terms of playing format, it needs to be said that Australia’s ODI side came to South Africa with a very weak bowling attack with the aim of resting some of their more established quicks for this series.

It’ll be great to see Starc and Hazlewood back, especially on a WACA surface that should provide pace and bounce in abundance. They’ll be looking to get at the South Africans and Faf du Plessis in particular, following some comments made in the lead up to the series as well as the “pack of dogs” comment he made in the 2014 Test series down under. The Aussie quicks will be champing at the bit to get at the stand-in captain and should make for some very interesting battles on the field.

While the bowling looks as though it should hold up find barring any injuries, I feel like the spotlight will fall on the Aussie batsmen in the first Test. For the first time in a long time, the South African bowling attack looks genuinely more threatening than that of the Australians.

Steve Smith, David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges will come under the spotlight against Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada who will all be looking to extract as much pace and bounce out of the Perth deck as possible. How well the top four stand up to this pace barrage early on could well set the tone for the rest of the series.

Looking ahead, there will be massive pressure on the home side to get a result in the first Test. Now more so than ever, especially after their dire showing in their last Test series away to a vastly inferior Sri Lankan side.

South Africa
South African Test cricket appears to be going in the right direction again following a very disappointing 2015/16 season which saw a solitary series win against West Indies, followed by a draw with Bangladesh as well as losses at the hands of India and England.

The side seems to be pulling in the right direction with Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada adding drive and excitement to a side that had just started to stagnate a bit. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see how the team as a whole get on without the leadership qualities of de Villiers who will likely miss the entire series as he recovers from elbow surgery.

This series represents the first time in a long time that the South African side has been blessed with a fully fit bowling line-up to select from. Rabada, Steyn, Morkel and Philander will all start while the selectors can draft anyone of Kyle Abbott, Tabraiz Shamsi, JP Duminy or Keshav Maharaj into the side as a fifth bowling option.

The one area I worry about this particular South African side is their opening partnership of Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar. Both are excellent batsmen who have proven themselves on both the first class and international stage, but neither have been in particularly good form in the lead up to this series. Elgar, to his credit, has managed a few runs in the two warm-up games but his form prior to that was a bit dire.

Cook is a worry though. He’s only managed one half-century in his last four matches which spans seven innings. At 33 years of age, he will know better than anyone that if he gets dropped from the side because of a lean run, he’ll probably not get back in the side.

The middle and lower order looks a lot more solid with Amla, du Plessis, Rossouw/Duminy, Bavuma and de Kock all in good touch. There are potentially a lot of runs here and you only need one of these guys to get settled into a partnership with Hash and we could see scores upward of 500.

I think that the South Africans will fancy themselves heading into the first Test at the WACA. The squad looks incredibly strong on paper and the fast wicket should suit both the batsmen and the bowlers down to the tee.

Verdict: South Africa (Draw No Bet) at 14/10
The Proteas have the momentum as well as the mental edge heading into this game following the ODI series in the Republic. On top of this, the South Africans have never actually lost a Test at the WACA winning two and drawing one and look good value on the Draw No Bet at 14/10.

Value Bet: Hashim Amla to top Score for South Africa at 11/4
Hash loves nothing more than the ball coming onto the bat and that’s exactly what he’ll get at the WACA. He’s played two Tests in Perth, scoring a massive 307 runs at 76.75 with a top score of 196.

Looking at his numbers at Centurion (another quick wicket that offers plenty of bounce) his numbers are even more phenomenal: 11 matches, 1202 runs at an average of 80.13 with a top score of 208. 
If he settles early and punishes anything too straight from the Aussie quicks, we could see the KZN native amass yet another massive score. 11/4 is a great price – get on!

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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