Johnson, Short, Hardie to debut against South Africa

Mitch Marsh's first game as captain will see Australia field an uncapped trio in their XI for their first T20I in Durban

Rookie quick Johnson tipped to make Starc-like impact

Three debutants, including one likened to Mitchell Starc, will be blooded in Australia's first T20 in almost a year, with breakthrough left-arm phenom Spencer Johnson named alongside fellow uncapped pair Matt Short and Aaron Hardie to face South Africa in their tour opener.

Mitch Marsh will lead the fresh-faced XI in his first international match as captain on Thursday morning (2am AEST, 6pm Wednesday evening local time) as the bulk of Australia’s first-choice side sit out the three-T20I series being held entirely in Durban this week.

Standouts from the last KFC BBL season, Short and Johnson, look set to open the batting and bowling respectively, while allrounder Hardie, a breakout star for the Perth Scorchers last summer, is listed at No.7.

Australia XI for first T20I v South Africa

Matt Short, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh (c), Josh Inglis (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Tim David, Aaron Hardie, Sean Abbott, Nathan Ellis, Adam Zampa, Spencer Johnson

There is considerable excitement over the prospects of Johnson. The left-arm paceman has continued a rapid ascent in recent months in short-form leagues in the USA, Canada and the UK following a head-turning campaign for the Brisbane Heat.

Now, after years of languishing on the fringes of South Australia's state list amid a series of injuries through his early and mid-twenties, Australia hope the 27-year-old could be Starc’s successor in the white-ball sides.

"It's probably come a little bit quicker than expected. He went through a lot of injury stuff earlier in his career," said Johnson's Redbacks captain Travis Head, who will open the batting with Short in the first T20I.

"Someone who bowls at high speed and can swing the new ball. He's done it over the last couple of tournaments now over the last couple of months.

"His body is good, he's bowling fast, so hopefully he can be that guy for us at the top of the bowling innings, similar to someone like Starcy for us who can be a match-winner with taking wickets."

Spencer continues stunning Shield start with seven

Of those who played in Australia's T20 World Cup campaign in November, only four players (Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Tim David and Adam Zampa) will feature in the first T20.

A fifth, wicketkeeper-batter Matthew Wade, received an eleventh-hour call-up to the squad following an injury to Glenn Maxwell, but Josh Inglis is being given the first shot with the gloves.

Nathan Ellis and Sean Abbott have the chance to push their 50-over World Cup cases, albeit in the shorter white-ball format, after both were named in an extended squad for the tournament beginning in October.

Both South Africa and Australia are resting the bulk of their first-choice players.

Starc (groin), Pat Cummins, Steve Smith (both wrist), David Warner, Josh Hazlewood and Cameron Green (rested) are all absent for the T20s following a taxing few months of Test duties in the UK, while limited-overs mainstays Maxwell (ankle) and Ashton Agar (calf) are also unavailable.

The Proteas are likewise sitting out the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Quinton de Kock and David Miller.

A number of those players will return for the ensuing five-game ODI series that holds more immediate relevance given the upcoming 50-over World Cup in India.

"Winning is important but you're not going to win a World Cup in South Africa, you're going to win it in India at the end of November … it's all about timing our run," said Head, who tipped the ocean-side Kingsmead venue to provide batter-friendly conditions.

2023 Qantas Tour of South Africa

August 30: First T20I, Durban

September 1: Second T20I, Durban

September 3: Third T20I, Durban

September 7: First ODI, Bloemfontein

September 9: Second ODI, Bloemfontein

September 12: Third ODI, Potchefstroom

September 15: Fourth ODI, Centurion

September 17: Fifth ODI, Johannesburg