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Australia v South Africa Series Preview: Boland can trouble Proteas

Australia's Test side returned to action recently with a 2-0 series victory over West Indies in early December and they now turn their attention to an intriguing three-match tussle with South Africa.

The series with the Proteas begins at the Gabba on Saturday 17th December with the other two matches between the sides taking place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Sydney Cricket Ground later this month and into January.

These sides currently occupy the top two spots in the ICC World Test Championship standings and there is added incentive for the Baggy Greens, who have not won a home Test series against South Africa since 2005-06.

Indeed, South Africa managed to come up trumps down under in 2008, 2012 and 2016 and Australia will be eager to make amends for that streak of losses.

What: Australia v South Africa, 1st Test
Where: The Gabba, Brisbane
When: 00.20, Saturday 17th December, 2022
How to watch: BT Sport 3 / bet365 Live Streaming
Odds: To win series - Australia 2/9, Draw 15/2, South Africa 13/2

Recent head-to-head on the side of South Africa

South Africa will be looking to draw confidence from their previous results in Australia but it has been a tumultuous year for their Test team.

It began on a high note with a 2-1 home win over India before they managed to salvage a draw from a two-match away tussle with New Zealand in February and March, despite having been thrashed in the opening game of that series by an innings and 276 runs.

It was more straightforward in March and April as they saw off Bangladesh 2-0, winning by 220 runs and then 332 runs, while they lost 2-1 to England in August and September but performed especially well in the first Test of that series.

That was the last time South Africa's Test side were in action and, according to the betting, they face an uphill battle against Australia as they are 13/2 to pull off a series triumph and 15/4 to win the first Test match at the Gabba.

Australia look to take initiative in World Test Championship standings

Recent history may be against them but Australia are 2/9 to win their upcoming Test series with the Proteas and can be backed at 1/2 to win the first match of the series in Brisbane.

Currently top of the standings, the Aussies know a series clean-sweep against South Africa would all but secure a spot in next year's World Test Championship final.

They look about right at the prices, meaning the match markets are arguably worth swerving as they come into this series in decent form, having defeated the Windies by 164 runs and then 419 runs in their recent two-match encounter.

Marnus Labuschagne was the star of the show once again, posting scores of 204, 104, 163 and 31 as Australia went on to declare in each of their four innings.

Steve Smith and Travis Head also hit centuries in the series, while spinner Nathan Lyon claimed 12 scalps, although attention will be on Australia's batch of fast bowlers when they lock horns with South Africa.

Keep an eye on the quicks down under

As well as South Africa's recent success down under, one of the biggest talking points coming into this series is the battle of the pace bowlers.

Both sides are used to playing in similar conditions and are therefore able to call on talented crops of quicks.

South Africa's bowling department has undoubtedly played a key role in their ascent to second spot in the World Test Championship with Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada leading their charge.

For Australia, meanwhile, they have had to deal with some injury concerns in the bowling department.

Captain Pat Cummins missed the second match against the West Indies but is expected to return for this series.

As for Josh Hazlewood, who was also unavailable against West Indies, he is expected to miss the first Test with South Africa due to a side strain.

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Boland looks to make his mark again

Scott Boland, however, is fit and ready to be unleashed again, having finished with figures of 3-16 from 10 overs in Australia's second Test with the West Indies earlier this month.

Boland burst onto the scene in the most recent Ashes series, taking seven wickets in Melbourne, seven wickets in Sydney and four wickets in Hobart against a deflated England side.

And the paceman looked similarly dangerous against the Windies, so could be worth a bet to be top first-innings bowler at 15/2 against the Proteas.

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