Unlike India‚ who are about to depart‚ the importance of the warm-up game has not been lost on the touring Australians.
So much significance has been attached to the three-day game against SA A at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Thursday that Australia will field their strongest side.
David Warner‚ who captained the T20 side to a tri-series final win against New Zealand on Wednesday‚ is the only sure starter missing from the team. He will arrive in SA at the weekend while Usman Khawaja and Cameron Bancroft will form a makeshift opening partnership.
Peter Handscomb‚ who was dropped for Mitchell Marsh after the second Ashes Test in Adelaide‚ will bat at No3. The rest of the team remains unchanged from the unit that crushed England by an innings and 123 runs in Sydney in January.
Australian bowling coach David Saker said continuity was a necessity as this game is their only warm-up before next week’s first Test at Kingsmead in Durban.
"We’ve come off a pretty big Test series in Australia so it hasn’t been a long time since we’ve been engaged in Test cricket‚" Saker said.
"It’s going to be a really good hit-out for the guys who haven’t been playing for the last three to four weeks. We’ve been playing some good cricket so we want to bring that back into the warm-up game. The SA A side looks a pretty strong outfit and that’s going to be a good challenge for us‚" he said.
Saker is not quite concerned with SA’s limited-overs form as they have proved to be a different Test outfit.
While SA’s batting has not quite fired‚ they bowled India out in every innings of the three-Test series they won 2-1.
Saker said he was also looking forward to the threat posed by an SA attack that has showed it can cope without Dale Steyn.
Australia will be fielding their full-strength bowling attack of Josh Hazlewood‚ Pat Cummins‚ Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.
"It would be nice if they are reeling from those defeats but it’ll be a pretty different team from the one that we’ll face.
"We also actually didn’t go that well in our ODI series against England.
"We haven’t played Test cricket in a while so I’m pretty sure we’ll be confident that it’s going to be a different ball game‚" Saker said.
"They also look a serious bowling team and they’ve also got some depth now. To take Dale Steyn out of the team and to still think you can take your 20 wickets quite easily‚ that’s very encouraging for them.
"They’ve got quite a strong bowling attack but we’ve also got a good bowling attack. We’re quite confident that we can bowl very well to them."
Australian team vs SA A: Usman Khawaja‚ Cameron Bancroft‚ Peter Handscomb‚ Steven Smith (capt)‚ Shaun Marsh‚ Mitchell Marsh‚ Tim Paine‚ Patrick Cummins‚ Mitchell Starc‚ Nathan Lyon‚ Josh Hazlewood