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South Africa, Australia look to seize early advantage in Durban - First Test Preview

First Test - South Africa v Australia, Kingsmead, Durban
1st to 5th March, 10:00 local, 08:00 GMT

A battle of high-quality pacers will be on the cards when Australia and South Africa lock horns with each other in the first of the four-Test series at Kingsmead in Durban on Thursday.

The contests between these two teams have always produced high-intensity encounters and both the sides will head into the game after success in their previous outings.

South Africa had a struggling limited overs contest against India but they did manage to win the Test series 2-1. Dale Steyn's comeback was stalled by another injury setback but Lungi Ngidi made most of his chance and was instrumental in the Proteas winning the Centurion Test with a six-wicket haul in the final innings. The focus though will be on Morne Morkel, who is six wickets short of reaching 300 milestone and has announced this will be his last international assignment. Also, it will be interesting to see, if head coach Ottis Gibson will go for an extended pace attack like they did against India with Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada also in the ranks but the slow pitch in Durban will present Keshav Maharaj with a chance.

AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and skipper Faf du Plessis have overcome from their respective injuries though Temba Bavuma will be unavailable for selection with a hand injury.

Australia have retained the same XI that won the fifth and final Test against England in Sydney and will be brimming with confidence after regaining the Ashes and much to the credit will go to skipper Steven Smith, who had another successful series with the bat and the pace trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood was too much to handle for the English batsmen. The form of Mitchell Marsh has been welcoming for the Aussies while Nathan Lyon will once again remain key especially at Kingsmead. The real concern for the baggy green side will be that an injury to any of the pacers will mean they might have to bank on Chadd Sayers and Jhye Richardson, who do not possess the same threat as the front-line options.

Pitch Conditions:

The pitch at Kingsmead is traditionally expected to be on the slower side and might present a good competition between the bat and the ball. South Africa might not risk of going with a spicy wicket against Australia like they did in their previous series against India while the weather is expected to be good in all five days.

Probable Team

South Africa: 1. Dean Elgar, 2. Aiden Markram, 3. Hashim Amla, 4. Faf du Plessis (captain), 5. AB de Villiers, 6. Theunis de Bruyn, 7. Quinton de Kock (wk), 8. Vernon Philander, 9. Keshav Maharaj, 10. Morne Morkel, 11. Kagiso Rabada

Australia (confirmed): 1. David Warner, 2. Cameron Bancroft, 3. Usman Khawaja, 4. Steven Smith (captain), 5. Shaun Marsh, 6. Mitchell Marsh, 7. Tim Paine (wk), 8. Pat Cummins, 9. Mitchell Starc, 10. Josh Hazlewood, 11. Nathan Lyon

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