The upcoming four-Test series between Australia and South Africa will feature some of the “best fast bowlers ever produced”, according to Australia assistant coach David Saker.
The series looms as a battle of the quicks with Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins looking to build on their Ashes dominance during the summer, while South Africa’s blend of superstar youth and masterful experience makes their pace battery just as threatening in their home conditions.
Australia’s big three, as well as uncapped duo Chadd Sayers and Jhye Richardson, have looked menacing in the competitive net sessions at The Wanderers this week and Saker couldn’t hide his excitement at the prospect of both sides unleashing their pace weapons during the Test series beginning March 1 in Durban.
“It would be great just to watch as a neutral to be fair,” Saker told the media after Australia’s light training session in Benoni on Wednesday.
“It’s so exciting. Coming to South Africa it’s a great place to tour.
“You get similar conditions, fast bouncy wickets usually, you get good food, good hospitality and it’s a great country.
“It’s really enjoyable to come to and you add the great teams that are playing in this Test series and it’s a pretty exciting Test series.
“I’m sure they’re going to be pretty competitive and really wanting to give it to us and we’re going to be the same back to them.”
One quick set to be on the sidelines when the teams go head to head in the series opener will be Proteas champion Dale Steyn.
The 34-year-old with 419 Test scalps is currently recovering from a damaged ligament in his foot and will likely feature later in the series, with South Africa’s medical staff keen to see the right-arm firebrand to play a first-class match before jumping into what is expected to be another heated contest between the two sides.
Steyn has managed just two Tests in the past 18 months and sustained injuries in both appearances – a fractured shoulder against Australia in November 2016 and the recent foot ailment against India last month.
However, the Proteas have been able to fill the sizable hole left by Steyn through the emergence of Kagiso Rabada as perhaps the world’s premier quick, Lungi Ngidi’s promising start to his Test career and the sustained brilliance of veterans Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
“They look a serious bowling team and they’ve got some depth now,” Saker said.
“To take Dale Steyn out of a team and you still think you can get your 20 wickets quite easily that’s quite encouraging for them.
“You look at their team and the bowling attack and it’s quite a strong attack.
“But in our camp we’ve got a really good attack and we’re pretty confident we can bowl very well to them.
“It’s going to be a great series, some really good fast bowling and some batters are going to have to bat well to get some runs.”
Australia’s first-choice pace brigade, along with star spinner Nathan Lyon, will have their first hit-out of the tour when the three-day tour match against South Africa begins on Thursday in Benoni.
Australia XI: Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Steve Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
South Africa A squad: Khayalihle Zondo (c), Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Beuran Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Wiaan Mulder, Senuran Muthusamy, Duanne Olivier, Rudi Second, Malusi Siboto, Shaun von Berg.
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v South Africa A, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3