James Pattinson was Man of the Match on debut against the Black Caps last summer. Picture: Getty Images/perthnow.com.au
Australia opens its home summer in the 1st Test against South Africa at the Gabba on November 9, knowing that nothing less than its best will be enough to topple the number one ranked side in the world. While Australia has been steadily rebuilding in recent years, the Proteas have emerged as the world’s best team, losing just one of its past 20 Test series. Funnily enough, that defeat came when Australia scored a 2-1 series win in the rainbow nation three years ago.
With Australian allrounder Shane Watson ruled through injury, Victorian top order batsman Rob Quiney will make his debut in the baggy green and is expected to bat at three. Former skipper Ricky Ponting is the leading runscorer in the Sheffield Shield this season and will be looking to build on his great record at the Gabba against the Proteas. The 37 year-old averages 63.57 in Test matches at the ground and scored 78 against New Zealand there twelve months ago.
The composition of the hosts bowling attack remains a talking point leading in to the match, with Watson’s injury now opening up the possibility of Australia leaving off-spinner Nathan Lyon out to play four quicks. That seems unlikely however, and with James Pattinson assured of a place in the final XI, Ben Hilfenhaus , Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle will fight it out for the remaining two spots. Hilfenhaus is arguably the best swing bowler, Starc offers something different being a left hander and Siddle works tirelessly, so they all bring something different to the table.
Hashim Amla , Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers are all ranked in the top five batsmen in the world and will pose a problem for the Australians regardless of who gets the nod. In Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel the Proteas also possess the most fearsome fast bowling trio going around at the moment. They will cause the hosts all sorts of problems on a surface that has provided plenty of assistance for the fast bowlers this season.
Australia has an imposing record at the Gabba, with the West Indies defeat of the home side at the ground in 1988. Six of the past 23 Test matches at the ground have ended in a draw with the host nation winning the remainder.
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