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Australia in SA - Preview
20 Feb 2006
By: Richard Edmunds

An opportunity has quickly arrived for South Africa to put an unsuccessful tour of Australia behind them with a return fixture. After a tour plagued by injuries and loss of form of key players, the South Africans will look to home ground support to get some revenge on the world number one team.

Although Jacques Kallis will not be back in time for the ODI series, the home side will once again have the services of Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini, both of whom were casualties early in the VB Series and were forced to return home. With a bowling attack that was at times taken to in the VB Series by both the Australians and Sri Lankans and struggling captain Graeme Smith looking to regain some form with the ball and bat respectively, the South Africans can be expected to prove quite a handful. They are always very tough to beat at home, and with Nel and Ntini back in the fold the outcome could well prove to be very different.

However, the Australians too have a point to prove. Simon Katich, despite his impressive hundred in the 3rd final of the VB Series against Sri Lanka, still has some critics who believe Phil Jaques should be there in his spot. Shane Watson too will be looking to secure a place after a frustrating run of injuries that has hampered his development. Another player looking to make an impression is the slight surprise selection Mitchell Johnson, who was expensive in a high-scoring match in his only ODI appearance to date. He will be looking to prove himself as a viable backup option for the World Cup next year.

The Australians have proven themselves capable of rising to almost all challenges they have faced in recent years. But Ricky Ponting's side have a difficult task ahead, with the South Africans tough enough to beat at home at any time, let alone with the desire for revenge they will have this series and the likely barrage of abuse from the crowd after the allegations of racism by the Australian crowds during South Africa's visit.

Australia are slight favourites, as always, but it is far from a foregone conclusion that they will be victorious in the test and ODI series.

The tour begins with a Twenty20 international in Johannesburg on Friday, before the five match ODI series beginning on Sunday. The tests follow thereafter, beginning in Cape Town on March 16.

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