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Cricket news - Smith, Warner brace for Cape Town return in crucial T20I

Warner and Smith, the antagonists in that ball-tampering episode in Cape Town, return to the crime scene after close to two years

Warner and Smith, the antagonists in that ball-tampering episode in Cape Town, return to the crime scene after close to two years

The last time Australia played against South Africa at Newlands, the series was squared at 1-1 with plenty at stake in the third game. For the visitors, though, it didn't turn out so well as they lost by 332 runs in a Test match that was stained by the ball-tampering fiasco. David Warner and Steve Smith, the antagonists in that episode, return to the crime scene after close to two years, albeit in a different format - now older, wiser, and with all their focus on their game.

While plenty might be said from the stands, and off the field, Warner and Smith wouldn't be too concerned by that - having turned a deaf ear for a while now. And while Australia will be hoping that the two let their bats do all the talking again, they'll also be reflecting on the clinical manner in which they dismantled South Africa in the first T20I while putting behind their loss in the previous game when they failed to chase down 159 despite being in a good position to do so.

A good start from Quinton de Kock will be key for South Africa, who will also be hoping for the rest of the batting to fire. They were 59 without loss after their first six overs in the previous game and then scored only 99 in the other 14. In the match before that, they were bowled out for their lowest total. South Africa will also bank on Tabraiz Shamsi and Lungi Ngidi, who have been their go-to bowlers in the last few games, to deliver again. Dale Steyn should return to the eleven, which would come as an additional boost, along with Kagiso Rabada's economical returns in the last game after going for a lot in the T20I opener.

With an average of 179 in his last eight T20I outings since October 2019, including three half-centuries and one three-figure score, Warner has been Australia's top performer while Aaron Finch has also been giving the team useful starts. However, Australia's slightly fragile middle order is something the bowlers would look to target. In the last game, Australia had raced away to 54 in the powerplay but were pulled back quite well by South Africa, who'd be hoping to do the same on a track that might be on the slower side.

When: Wednesday, February 26 at 9:30 PM local time

Where: Newlands, Cape Town

What to expect: The last T20I played at this venue was in March 2019 between South Africa and Sri Lanka - a game which ended in a tie with only 134 on the board, with the hosts winning in the Super Over after scoring 14. The pitch will be the same strip that was used for the franchise one-day game between Cape Cobras and Dolphins - in which eight of the 18 wickets fell to spin, including Keshav Maharaj's haul of 4/24, which will keep the spinners interested.

Team news:

South Africa: Maharaj isn't in South Africa's T20 squad, but the conditions should prompt a return for Jon-Jon Smuts. There's still no clarity on whether Temba Bavuma or Heinrich Klaasen will be fit.

Possible XI: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Temba Bavuma/Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Jon-Jon Smuts, David Miller, Pite van Biljon, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Australia: Despite the loss in the previous game, Australia are unlikely to tinker with their combination, which means that Sean Abbott, Jhye Richardson and D'Arcy Short might warm the bench again.

Possible XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.

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