The Super 12 stage of the tournament will kick-start with a clash between two sides who have not been impressive in the T20 World Cup’s previous editions. While South Africa have never managed to reach the final of the tournament, Australia did so just once, where they lost to England in 2010.
ICC trophies have proven to be a far-fetched dream for the Proteas, and there are no signs suggesting a change in fortunes this time. They have assembled a decent squad, but to miss out on some in-form players like Faf du Plessis might come to haunt them as the tournament progresses.
However, they have performed well in Sri Lanka a few weeks back, where they won the 3-match series 3-0. Question marks hover over their ability to do it consistently, and a lot of their players in the last 12 months have not been able to provide big performances on a regular basis.
Australia have similar problems in their batting department. They had a disappointing tour of Bangladesh before the IPL, where they failed to counter the spin conditions. The conditions in the UAE won’t be as aggressively spin-friendly as they were in that series, but the tracks will remain on the slower side.
David Warner’s form remains a concern for the 5-time World Champions, but skipper Aaron Finch has expressed his confidence in the player, as has their teammate, Glenn Maxwell. If their warm-up fixtures were any indication, it is clear that they are relying on Steve Smith, Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis to score runs in the middle order.
It will be interesting to see who takes up an aggressive role as the tournament progresses and who will play the anchor, as their batters are capable of doing both roles well. Their bowling department has the usual suspects in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins taking the major responsibilities, but a lot depends on how their spin contingent in Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa perform.
Quinton de Kock did not get a lot of runs in the IPL, but prior to that, he was doing a fine job against Sri Lanka. In the ICC Batter’s rankings for men, he finds himself in the top ten across all formats and is ranked 8th in T20Is.
De Kock got just 297 runs in 11 games but maintained an impressive strike-rate of 130 in the IPL. South Africa need him to prove stellar starts on a regular basis.
One of the fastest bowlers in the world right now, Anrich Nortje has had two good Premier League seasons and played all his games in the UAE. He is familiar with these conditions and has excelled for the Delhi Capitals.
In the 24 games he played in the UAE for Delhi, he picked up 32 wickets and is often a partnership-breaker and provides crucial wickets early on in the innings. South Africa need him to be at his absolute best for this edition.
Easily one of the top five performers in the IPL this season, Glenn Maxwell had a very consistent run ever since the tournament resumed in UAE. His contributions were pivotal in driving RCB to the playoffs. He scored 513 runs at an average of 42.75, and will be appearing rolling his arm at regular intervals.
Easily one of the best fast bowlers in the world, Pat Cummins has not found tremendous success in the shortest format. However, his ability to provide early wickets might allow Finch to provide him the new ball overs, whilst Starc handles the death overs. In the IPL earlier this season, he has also proven himself to be a handy contributor with the bat and might appear at number 8 to provide some big blows at the end.
Currently ranked number 1 in the world, Tabraiz Shamsi has enjoyed a great deal of recent success. He was nearly unplayable in the Sri Lanka tour and has picked up 28 wickets in the 17 T20Is he played for South Africa in 2021. As far as form goes, he has been their standout performer, and there is no spinner in the world who would not relish the slow conditions in the middle-east, let one the world number one.
This game will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, which has witnessed some of IPL 2021’s highest-scoring games. Although it has long boundaries, the pitch is expected to remain consistent, however, it turns out.
The Australian batting department might prove to be the difference in this fixture, considering their vast wealth of experience. Steve Smith and Marcus Stoinis will provide some stability with Warner, Finch, Maxwell and the lower order going hell for leather.
The battle between fast bowling duos of Cummins-Starc and Nortje-Rabada will be exceptional to witness, but Australia are expected to emerge victorious in this clash.