South Africa vs. Australia: Key Storylines in T20 Match

Dan BrettContributor IIIMarch 12, 2014

South Africa's captain Graeme Smith comes onto  the field for the last time after announcing his retirement Monday, during the fourth day of their third cricket test against Australia in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press

South Africa take on Australia in the fourth match of the series, both hoping that poor weather doesn't put paid to yet more competitive game time with rain forecast in Durban.

Australia have won two out of three against South Africa in recent matches, picking up a 245-run victory last time out in Graeme Smith's final match for the hosts.

Arguably not one to remember for Smith's swansong; South Africa will be hoping for victory against Australia in preparation of the ICC World Twenty20 which begins on 17 March.

But there's very different preparations planned for both sides, with Australia looking to fine-tune their squad while South Africa search for restructure following Graeme Smith's retirement.

No Hogg For Australia

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Brad Hogg would have been hoping to toast the gong of "oldest man to play in a T20 international" against South Africa, but the 43-year-old may have to wait because he remains unlikely to feature as he is left cursing a tight hamstring.

James Faulkner also looks set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, with Hogg's hopes of an Australian return for the first time since the last World T20 in 2012 having been curtailed by injury, onset by a lengthy session in the nets with spin coach and Australia legend Shane Warne.

Speaking with AAP (h/t ESPN CricInfo), Hogg highlighted his frustrations but admitted that he would be more upset if the match carried more importance:

It's a weird one. I can do everything except bowl. Every time I plant that front leg down, I can't get over there. But I'm glad it's happened now and not over in Bangladesh. If it was a big game—you'd take the medications and definitely would (play). But I think we're taking a conservative approach at the moment so I'm right for the World Cup.

I was in awe of the king [Warne]. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity and I went for an hour-and-a-half, which was probably too long.

Australia will face South Africa again on 14 March, which could see Hogg's milestone reached, before the country enter the World T20 fold in their opening match against Pakistan in Mirpur on 23 March.


Can AB de Villiers Fill Smith's Captaincy Void?

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

With the news of Graeme Smith's retirement, South Africa may have to shuffle their pack if AB de Villiers is named as the new Test captain.

Taking over from Smith would promote de Villiers from his vice-captaincy, with questions raised over whether he can lead his country while maintaining his wicketkeeping responsibilities after Surrey's Smith announced his departure.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 30:  Mark Boucher speaks during the SAB Boucher Conservation Launch at SAB Brewhouse on October 30, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

According to ESPN CricInfo's Firdose Moonda, former South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has backed de Villiers as captain but believes that he must choose between wicketkeeping and his leadership role:

I don't think it's viable for him to captain, bat in the top five and keep wicket. The ask is a lot. Maybe he can do it for a small period of time while South Africa look for another keeper but in the longer term, he'll need to give up one.

The could-be new skipper admitted that his side weren't at the races against Australia in the recent Test series and will have to pick up their pace ahead of the World T20 campaign, tweeting:

Time will tell on whether de Villiers can step up to the mantle and carry on from where Smith left off, but if he is to succeed in captaining his country, he will have to ensure that he doesn't pile too much responsibility onto his own plate.

Moving aside from wicketkeeping could bring Thamsanqa Lungile Tsolekile or Dane Vilas into the fold as he looks to restructure his South African side.

With just a few days until the start of the World T20, Smith's retirement comes at an awkward time for his national squad, but an important lesson in rising to the challenge awaits de Villiers and his new-found Test captaincy.