Australia-South Africa Test Series Schedule
In the build-up to the three-match Test series, all the talk has surrounded around South Africa's "best ever" fast bowling line-up led by Dale Steyn. Besides Steyn, the Proteas have Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
South Africa coach Allan Donald considers this attack as his country's "best ever" in the history. How well the pacemen live upto the coach's expectations will be known soon.
Also this series gives an opportunity for Australia to reclaim their number one Test status. South Africa, the holders of the top ranking at the moment, can slip from there if they lose the series. However for them to stay number one, a series draw is enough.
Australia, at home, will be a formidable side. They too possess strong bowlers in Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc. Captain Michael Clarke might consider an all-pace attack or else bring in the offspinner Nathan Lyon.
When these two sides met last time in South Africa, the series had ended 1-1. During that series, Australia were humiliated in Cape Town when they were blown away for just 47 runs.
Shane Watson, who is injured, will not be part of the first Test. Rob Quiney will make his debut and could play at number three. David Warner and Ed Cowan will be the openers.
South Africa skipper Graeme Smith wants to target the inexperience at the top of the order.
"The goal is for us to expose the top-order as quick as possible. Everyone would love to have a team three-down. That inexperience is hopefully something we can exploit because then we could have Australia under pressure," Smith was quoted as saying in the media on the eve of the match.
Clarke made it clear that their bowlers will target South African batsmen with short-pitched deliveries.
"I wouldn't be surprised if you saw a lot of short stuff, that's for sure. When you've got four guys who can bowl at well over 140 kilometres per hour, they're not shy on bouncers whether it be in the nets or in the centre," Clarke said on Thursday.
"The young quicks know what they have to do, they know how important it is that they execute their skills. But they know they need to keep the same aggression they had last summer against India. They understand there's a line they can't cross but we'll be pushing that line," he added.
This series could be a crucial one for veteran batsman Ricky Ponting. He needs to be in top form to retain his spot for the rest of the season. Having played 165 Tests, he is set to equal Australian record for most Tests, 168, held by former captain Steve Waugh.
Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Jacques Rudolph, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis, Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson, Thami Tsolekile.
Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan)
Third umpire: Richard Kettleborough (England)
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
Match starts at 5.30 AM IST
Catch live ball by ball commentary here on www.thatscricket.com