- Match: Australia v South Africa
- Time: 14:00 local time on Sunday 23 October
- Venue: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE
This is a match that sees two of the tournament’s most fearsome fast bowling units, best-equipped spin arsenals, and powerful batting orders face off.
It is also a match featuring two sides with very different form-lines and contrasting levels of outward expectation.
With the likes of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Faf du Plessis no longer in the squad, South Africa enter the tournament without the regular media hype that follows them going into ICC events despite the likes of de Kock, Rabada and company.
Australia conversely have seen their stocks rise notably since confirming a squad that includes the ilk of Maxwell, Aaron Finch, Warner, Starc, Smith and Pat Cummins.
At 2pm local time in Abu Dhabi, the two teams commence their campaigns and in truth it is the Proteas who should be favourites in the match if form means anything.
They’re currently on a run of seven straight T20I wins on top of taking out both their warm-up matches ahead of today’s game. Only Bangladesh have won as many T20Is this year as South Africa – 11 – in men’s cricket.
On the other end of the spectrum, Australia has won just four of their 15 T20Is this year, suffering series losses in New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh.
Despite that, it’s hard to look at their squad and not be impressed. There’s no doubt that if they click, they can go all the way.
What is clear is that neither team can really afford to slip up in this match. With games to come against world No.1s England, reigning champions West Indies and battle-hardened Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, teams can ill-afford to miss out on points in a group featuring five Test members.
Australia captain Finch confirmed his side would only be picking the four specialist bowlers for the match, with all-rounders Marcus Stoinis, Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh to share four overs. Given conditions and the effectiveness of their combination, spin-twins Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are likely to feature meaning one of Australia’s star quicks will have to sit out.
Australia possible XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mathew Wade (wk), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins/Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
There’s plenty of mystery over South Africa’s XI, particularly the top-order where they have an abundance of options. Nevertheless, expect star keeper Quinton de Kock to partner captain Temba Bavuma at the top with one of Reeza Hendricks or Aiden Markram to bat at No.3, ahead of Rassie van der Dussen at No.4. David Miller and Heinrch Klaasen round out the specialist batting roles, with Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder contenders to bat at No.7.
With the ball, Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi are the locks, with two of Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi to complete the XI.
South Africa possible XI: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (c), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Wiaan Mulder, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje/Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi