South Africa have a handful of ODI matches to get their bowling firing or they can kiss goodbye to any hope of winning the World Cup.
A two-wicket defeat in Sydney meant Australia won the series 4-1 and they went back to the top of the ODI rankings. They head into the World Cup as the tournament favourites and they deserve that tag.
We are now in a better position to see where the Proteas are in terms of preparation for the World Cup. The batsmen seem to have sorted themselves out but the bowling has bordered on the shambolic at times – a snapshot of which came from Kyle Abbott bowling Australia’s man of the series Steve Smith off a front foot no ball in Sydney.
Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla both scored centuries in the series and both will go into the World Cup with some confidence after hitting hundreds in Australian conditions.
Faf du Plessis will bat at No3 and AB de Villiers must bat at No4. I’d elevate David Miller to No5 and then bring in JP Duminy at No6, because the left-hander is the man who can work with a long tail and keep the strike for long periods.
De Villiers and MIller put on two century partnerships in the series and the left-hander clearly likes having the comfort of his captain at the other end.
However, when it comes to the bowlers, the Proteas are in strife.
Morne Morkel took a career-best 5-21 on a bouncy Perth surface but he was expensive on the slightly slower and flatter tracks. He is no certainty to take his place in a best Proteas XI.
Dale Steyn must be there and I’d also have Imran Tahir as well – providing he’s used as a strike bowler and not one brought in to contain and keep the runs down.
Robin Peterson must be in the final 15 as must Farhaan Behardien and Rilee Rossouw but they are fringe players, and they probably haven’t done enough to be in the starting XI, while for my money Ryan McLaren played himself out of the World Cup squad with an ordinary series in Australia.
Vernon Philander showed flashes of what he can do with the ball – he remains an underachiever with the bat – while Abbott was expensive in Sydney (1-59) but he is one of the better ‘death’ bowlers in South Africa.
I would seriously have a look at the Highveld Lions’ Chris Morris, who has been miserly in the domestic Ram Slam T20 Challenge matches. He might be a bolter for a World Cup spot as South Africa have struggled to keep the runs down, whether it’s in the first innings or the second innings of the ODIs.
In looking at a potential World Cup 15, this is how I would see a squad: Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, David Miller, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson, Farhaan Behardien, Rilee Rossouw and I’d throw Chris Morris into the mix.
He holds the world record for T20, with two runs conceded from his four overs, and he could bowl three spells, including at the death in the 50-over format.
De Villiers is indispensable to the cause, and De Kock and Amla need to get South Africa off to good starts, which immediately gives the likes of Du Plessis, De Villiers and Miller the licence to play with freedom.
Through his absence, we have also seen in this series how important Duminy is to the team, both with the bat and ball. He will make a big difference, but what the series in Australia showed us is that of the fringe players Rossouw and Behardien did enough to book their place while McLaren is the big loser from the tour.
How Gary Lemke saw the first four ODIs