Battle of the titans

HARARE - How many cricket fans around the country have actually thought about the triangular series which started on Monday?

All of us have been caught up in all the ongoing heartache both on and off the field.

We have been blinded by disappointing performances on the field, and suicidal decisions off the field that will hasten the demise of cricket in this country.

But amongst all of the off field carnage and on field disappointment, many of us have more than likely forgotten that we are privileged enough to have both Australia and South Africa, the world's number one and two ranked ODI teams in our back yard so to speak.

This is the sort of international cricket we would have wanted 15 years ago, when all three teams would have provided good, hard and competitive cricket.

But as the age old saying goes -better late than never.

For the first time in many a year, we are fortunate enough to have two world class full strength teams playing in our country.

Today will see South Africa finally be given a stern examination when they lock horns with their age old rivals, Australia.

Like all sports, cricket has its traditions.

Some will tell you that the biggest clash in international cricket would be when Australia and England face each other in the Ashes, while others will argue that nothing is bigger than India playing Pakistan.

Of course, both fixtures are events you would never want to miss out on, even if it means waking up in the early hours of the morning to watch the games on TV.

But what many people seem to conveniently forget, is the fearsome battle between two teams who are so similar in so many ways.

Australia and South Africa.

Both teams are hard, ruthless and uncompromising.

Both teams have a gallery of fast bowlers.

Their batting lineups have opposition teams around the world cringing with dread.

Unfortunately, Zimbabweans won't have the privilege of watching David Warner and Shane Watson in full flight, but then some may say that their absence may be a blessing in disguise when playing Zimbabwe.

Which of these two teams have the edge?

Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla have forged a formidable partnership at the top of the order.

Amla, the master, and de Kock, the rapidly learning student.

Australia's openers are most certainly not to be disregarded either.

Brad Haddin is vastly experienced and flexible.

He has opened the batting on countless occasions, but has also been used as a finisher.

He has been the backbone of the innings, while batters have kept the innings ticking, but he is also more than capable of playing as aggressively and as destructively as the likes of David Warner or Shane Watson.

His opening partner Aaron Finch is probably one of the hardest and cleanest strikers of a cricket ball in the world.

The number three spot is an interesting scenario.

The Proteas have been relying on Jacques Kallis for close to 20 years, while Australia were blessed with the services of Ricky Ponting.

Both these icons have called it a day, and have left a huge void that will take some time to fill.

For now South Africa have settled with Faf du Plessis.

Similar to Haddin, du Plessis has the ability it set out his stall and hold up an end.

But, we have to remember that Faf captained the T20 team, which means that he is also capable of playing the big shots.

Australia would probably have played Watson at number three, but the injury plagued allrounder had to sit this one out, so either Mitchell Marsh, or Phil Hughes will slot in at the number three position.

Both captains Michael Clarke and AB de Villiers are excellent players of spin, but you would have to favour de Villers in this instance.

Firstly due to a hamstring injury Clarke sustained which might keep him out of action for longer than first expected, and secondly, and more importantly, de Villiers is a match winner.

Unlike Clarke, AB needs less time at the crease before crowds are treated to some of the best stroke play in the modern game.

Both teams are also blessed with power hitters in David Miller, while Australia boast with the flamboyant Glenn Maxwell, who already gave us a demonstration of what he is capable of, when he smashed 93 off just 46 balls in Monday's crushing 198 run defeat.

It is common knowledge that the Proteas have Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at their disposal, while Australia have Mitchell Johnson in their armoury.

Neither team however, have a dependable spinner.

Imran Tahir is there and there abouts, while Nathan Lyon's inclusion in a one day team always seems to have journalists, more notably the Australian journalists asking why?

Lyon like several of the current Australian squad has toured Zimbabwe on a previous occasion with Australia A, and his never say die attitude will undoubtedly help him reap just rewards.

So for now, let us momentarily bury the hatchet and appreciate quality teams playing each other, before once again donning the suit of armour to fight the stench of corruption.

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