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Race to make Gabba playable

Groundsmen have worked through their holidays in a bid to ensure a damaging fungus does not ruin the Gabba outfield for the second Australia v South Africa Twenty20 match.

The Gabba has been ravaged by the fungus, which has left barren and sandy areas across the outfield.

The surface was substandard in a Twenty20 game between Queensland and NSW a fortnight ago but had improved by the time the Bulls played South Australia last Friday night.

It is still far from perfect but curator Kevin Mitchell is confident it will not be a major issue in the match between Australia and the Proteas.

"It is not as good as we would like but I still think it will play well," Mitchell said.

"We would like to see a better cover but most areas are covered pretty well. It has taken time.

"We lost a lot of rye grass early in the season due to a disease. We had a bad fungus develop. At least we are on the mend now.

"We have had to make sure we don't go backwards. It is improving all the time."

Several members of the Gabba ground staff postponed Christmas holidays in an attempt to bring the outfield up to scratch.

Though the standard of the outfield will be modest, Mitchell's match strip looks of traditionally high standard.

Australia are expected to hand new Queenslander Ryan Harris his international debut at home while spinner Nathan Hauritz is also in line to play after being rested in Melbourne.

The Proteas have made three changes to their side with Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and debutant Wayne Parnell replacing batsman Jacques Kallis and bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Batsman AB de Villiers is expected to play despite severe bruising to his hip from a Shaun Tait thunderbolt.

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