Smith surprise as star man left out
HE was one of the stars of Australia's 3-0 clean sweep of Pakistan in the recent one-day series in the UAE, but New South Wales batsman Steve Smith has surprisingly been left out of the team to take on South Africa in today's series opener in Perth.
The right-hander, who made scores of 101, 12 and 77 in that series, was struck on the hand by fast bowler Mitchell Johnson in the nets at the WACA on Wednesday, but selectors made no mention of that when making him 12th man yesterday.
Captain Michael Clarke, who has copped some ill-directed criticism for his handling of the side in the two Test losses to Pakistan, seemed surprised that Smith and fast bowler Kane Richardson had been left out.
"A couple of tough selections there from the selectors, a couple of tough decisions," Clarke, whose support for No.3 batsman Alex Doolan in the UAE was ignored by selectors, said.
Smith's place has been taken by the returning Shane Watson, while NSW paceman Josh Hazlewood has been picked for his first ODI since September 2013. Matthew Wade will keep wickets in place of the injured Brad Haddin.
Hazlewood is part of a three-man pace attack with Johnson and Nathan Coulter-Nile, while all-rounders Watson and Mitchell Marsh will also be expected to send down some overs on a wicket that is expected to favour the fast bowlers.
Australia hasn't named a specialist spinner in its squad for the first two matches of the five-game series, with off-spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell the likely option if some spin is required.
While Johnson has caused a few anxious moments for teammates in the nets, South African batsman Faf du Plessis said he would enjoy taking on the express bowler at the bouncy WACA track.
"I enjoy our battles, and I've had some good success against him as well," du Plessis said.
"As a top-order batter especially, you want to be in there facing quick bowling. For me, I like it."
In his last three one-day games against Australia, du Plessis scored 106, 126 and 96.
AUSTRALIAN TEAM: Warner, Finch, Watson, Clarke (c), Bailey, Maxwell, M Marsh, Wade, Johnson, Coulter-Nile, Hazlewood, Smith (12th man).