T20 World Cup 2021, Australia vs South Africa, first ball 9pm (AEDT) — Australia and South Africa start their World Cup campaigns on Saturday knowing that a loss could already have dire ramifications.
In an ideal world, the first match of the tournament would be a chance to adapt to conditions and the nerves that a World Cup brings — but this is the group of death.
Australia and South Africa have been pitted against world No.1 England and defending champions the West Indies to make their path to next month’s semi finals that bit more perilous.
The only way to ease the pressure is with victory on Saturday night as the Super 12 stage kicks off at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
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MATCH CENTRE: Australia vs South Africa, live scoreboard, stats, video
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England is expected to comfortably qualify for the semi finals, which would leave just one spot for the group’s other five teams.
Australia and South Africa are the group’s highest-ranked automatic qualifiers after England, and will be fighting for the upper-hand in that battle from game one.
While Australia is ranked a lowly seventh after losing five-straight bilateral series in a row, the nation at full-strength is always considered a major threat.
Indeed, Australia has a formidable line-up with one of the best bowling attacks in the world complimented by batters such as Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and Mitch Marsh.
Furthermore, Australia has a good record against the Proteas, who its last series win came against in February 2020.
That victory, however, was claimed off the back of big series from Finch and David Warner who haven’t had ideal preparations for the World Cup.
All eyes are now particularly on opener Warner who enters tournament having made 0, 2, 0 and 1 in his past four T20 innings. Warner has, however, scored more T20I runs against South Africa than any other country.
Meanwhile, Finch made 24 and eight in two warm-up matches that came after he was injured mid-year, forcing him out of three ODIs against the West Indies and five T20Is against Bangladesh.
Australia struggled on those tours, particularly against spin bowling which could be the team’s biggest threat at the World Cup.
And South Africa has the world’s No.1-ranked bowler in spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who’s sure to test the Australian batters.
But the same could be said of Australia’s spinning all-rounder Ashton Agar who ran riot the last time these teams played.
Agar claimed eight wickets at 8.5 that series, including figures of 5-24 which featured a hat-trick.
Australia has lost each of its past two opening matches of a T20 World Cup — although it’s been five long years since it was last held — while South Africa also lost openers in 2014 and 2016.
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Australia XI (possible): Aaron Finch, David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
South Africa XI (possible): Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markarm, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi