Australia who was the top-ranked T20I side prior to the three-match series against India witnessed a serious downfall in the rankings after the 0-3 loss © Getty Images
Australia who was the top-ranked T20I side prior to the three-match series against India witnessed a serious downfall in the rankings after the 0-3 loss © Getty Images

Australia and South Africa are set to play the first Twenty20 International (T20I) of their three-match T20I series at Durban on Friday. This series is being played as a practice for the ICC World T20 2016, which will begin next week in India. However, playing T20Is in altogether different conditions will be useful or not, is difficult thing to say as of now. While South Africa, recently won their home T20I series against England, Australia are coming off an embarrassing white-wash at home by the hands of India in the shortest format of the game. However, keeping the potential of both the sides in mind, the result of the three-match series is surely hard to predict. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: South Africa vs Australia 2016, 1st T20I at Durban

Australia who was the top-ranked T20I side prior to the three-match series against India witnessed a serious downfall in the rankings after the 0-3 loss. Just after the end of the third T20I at Sydney, the International Cricket Council (ICC) sent out the tweet regarding the Australians falling to No. 8 and India was the new No. 1 T20I side. Nevertheless, before entering the field at Durban, Australia hold the 7th spot, while the South Africans are on the second position on the table of the ICC T20I team rankings.

Australia and South Africa will be led by Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis respectively. It has been barely a month since Cricket Australia sacked Aaron Finch to hand the captaincy across all formats to Smith. Although Smith has led Australia only in just one T20I, he has enough experience of T20 captaincy, leading Sydney Sixers and Rajasthan Royals in Big Bash League and Indian Premier League (IPL) respectively.

Australia’s incompetence against spin bowling is not hidden. It only cleared by the fact that Glenn Maxwell has warned his side about South Africa’s spinner, Imran Tahir. “He has been very successful and he played really well in the IPL last years, said. I think that was a big thing for him and for his confidence. I think he has been riding that since. He seems to grab the momentum back for South Africa every time he comes on,” Maxwell said. READ: Why Australia can win T20I series 2015-16 vs South Africa!

With the likes of David Warner, Finch, Smith in the top-order along with the likes of Shane Watson, Mitchell Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Maxwell coming in the middle, Australia have an explosive batting line-up on paper. How well will these players deliver on the occasion cannot be told beforehand. Meanwhile, the bowling department once again will miss the services of their ace pacer, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle, who sustained an injury during their recent tour of New Zealand, thus handing over the entire bowling responsibility on the shoulders of Josh Hazlewood.

Their spin option will feature the likes of Adam Zampa and Maxwell himself. Medium pacer Andrew Tye, who made his debut against India last year, has been given another chance. Since he is touring South Africa for the first time and if pressure happens to dominate him, all he has to do is be economical and assist Hazlewood and Mitchell, who can handle the pace department for Australia. READ: ICC World T20 2016: Why South Africa vs Australia series not ideal for preparation

Meanwhile, South Africa’s line-up is no less experienced, especially in the T2o format. Du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla make up the top-order of South Africa. The likes of AB de Villiers, David Miller and JP Duminy fall next in the line-up. The batting line-up seems as strong as their bowling department that is once again boosted with the return of Dale Steyn. With Steyn in the squad, Kyle Abbott is surely not assured of being their leading pacer, despite being the joint highest wicket-taker for the Proteas along with Steyn in the last four T20I series.

According to ESPNCricinfo, Abbott said, “I always feel like a bowler that needs to bowl a lot and get into rhythms. To play one game in a series is tough.  To get an extended run has really built my confidence.”

Squads:

Australia: Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Usman Khawaja, James Faulkner, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Agar, John Hastings

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien,Quinton de Kock,  (wk), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese

TIME: 21.30 IST | 16.00 GMT | 18.00 Local

(Sakshi Gupta, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy.” Her Twitter handle is @sakshi2929)