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Nic Ladds 16th Dec 2008 - 1:39

Australians Ponting in the right direction

This week in the cricket world, the two highest ranked teams in the game begin the first of their three Test series in what's sure to be a mouth watering encounter - it's Australia v South Africa.

South Africa will travel to Perth for day one of the first Test at the WACA on 17 December, and bring a strong batting line-up including in-form captain Graeme Smith, who is the 3/1 favourite to be South Africa's top batsman, Jacques Kallis (7/2) and Hashim Amla (7/2).

Don't look for Herschelle Gibbs in the top batsman betting - the 34 year old is banned from duty until mid January due to attending a rehab programme for his drinking.

The Australians will obviously be looking to shine in this series as it's the beginnings of the grand warm-up which they will need if they are to give England a decent match in next year's Ashes, with England clearly on fire at the moment...

To do this, they will need some consistent high scoring from their batsmen and will be looking towards captain Ricky Ponting, 7/2 for top Australia batsman, to lead by example - closely followed by Michael Hussey (7/2).

Only slightly further down the list are big hitters Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds, 4/1 and 8/1 respectively and this could be where the value is hiding.

In the match betting, it's the Aussies who are the favourites at 10/11, while the 9/4 about South Africa winning the first Test could show some possible value.

Who will have the stronger start? With William Hill, you can bet on who will be leading after the first innings, again it's Australia who are the favourites in the betting, by a slight margin at 4/6 in comparison to the 11/10 for the South Africans leading after their first innings total.

Australia v South Africa match betting

Australia v South Africa first innings lead

Australia v South Africa highest opening partnership

Australia v South Africa Test match schedule (all UK times)

First Test: Australia v South Africa at WACA Perth | December 17–21 02.30 am

Second Test: Australia v South Africa at MCG Melbourne | December 26-30 00.00 am

Third Test: Australia v South Africa at SCG Sydney | January 03-07 00.00 am

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