I've lamented enough that the upcoming test series between South Africa and Australia is only two fixtures. What I will say, though, is that in a few months time noone will bother to recall the ODIs or 20/20s; this illustrates the real importance and lasting impact of limited overs cricket outside World Cups and Champions trophies. In this way the scheduling (and maintaining of) was only ever about money.
Like Ashes series, battles against South Africa have been weighted as incredibly important ever since South Africa's readmission to sport. In more recent times series against India have risen in importance too (perhaps due in part to acrimony between the teams) but there is something else to the cricket between these two sides. The last two test series produced phenomenal cricket and an overall scoreline of 3 apiece accurately reflected the closeness of the two teams. This time around Australia is more of an unknown quantity. The bowling spots are not certain (well, one of them) and there is an air of confidence back after comprehensively beating Sri Lanka away. Looking at how Sri Lanka are going against Pakistan, however, should be a reminder that they are far from world beaters at the moment.
If De Villiers plays South Africa have their best batting lineup and even without him it is very strong. Steyn and Morkel are the best opening bowling team at present and Lotsobe is no shrinking violet. Watch out for Tahir, too, who should feature. This team on paper should beat Aus comprehensively. Duminy, who arrived in test cricket when SA toured last, is battling to make the first 11 and while he has been inconsistent of late he is obviously talented. His absence shows SA is now picking a side rather than filling it out which, in my view, they were doing with guys like McKenzie.
Aus will play Hughes, Watson, Marsh, Ponting, Clarke and Hussey. I'd love Ponting to 'do a Lehmann' and allow Khawaja to prove his worth but selfishness is part of his character. He better make runs on this tour. Haddin is on borrowed time and if Paine were 100% fit he'd be lucky to keep his place. Runs from him might hide his declining keeping but not for long.
The bowling is a little more complicated. Harris is the best bowler in the country at the moment. He's also a little Bruce Reid like in that injury dogs him but he's that good that you pick him whenever you can. Lyon will be severely tested; maybe not to the extent McGain was (or, more appropriately speaking 'thrown to the wolves') but he deserves it now and it should be his spot to lose. Beer couldn't get numbers 10 and 11 out on a 4th day Adelaide Oval wicket last week so he's not exactly knocking the door down.
Johnson, the perenial problem, will get picked. So there's Harris, Johnson and Lyon. Siddle, Cummins and Copeland vie for the third spot. I'll leave it there people.....