Five points of discussion ahead of the fourth ODI against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
No 2 RANKING
After going 3-0 up and sealing the series, the Proteas moved up to No 2 in the ICC ODI rankings, but that can only be officially secured after the series, so there’s still some work to be done. A 4-1 series win will secure their No 2 spot, one point ahead of New Zealand but still six points behind Australia. A 5-0 whitewash will leave them just two points behind the Australians and three points ahead of New Zealand. This will be a huge confidence booster for the side with next year’s Champions Trophy not too far away, so they won’t take the next two matches lightly.
Graeme Pollock mentioned in his column leading up to the third ODI that a 3-2 series victory won’t be enough. The Proteas must win 5-0 to really show the progress they’ve made, and it will go a long way towards showing that they are capable of putting in good performances consistently. This is an Australian side short of bowling resources, but the South Africans must make them pay for it with five clinical performances. They should go into the fourth game afresh and confident of closing out the next two games. A 5-0 drubbing will not be received well by the Australians.
REST STEYN & RABADA
Both pacemen took a beating in Durban, Dale Steyn especially, whose 2-96 were the worst bowling figures ever in ODIs by a South African. With the series wrapped up 3-0, it’s a chance to take player management into consideration. Steyn should take a breather for this match and Kagiso Rabada for the fifth match in Cape Town, which will give Kyle Abbott a decent two-match burst. Rabada has played a lot of cricket recently, and he must be managed or he’s going to burn out. The series victory is also a chance for the Proteas to use the fresh players available to them, with Aaron Phangiso and Tabraiz Shamsi waiting for a run-around. They need to be a utilised in a way that won’t affect the Proteas’ chances of winning this series 5-0.
BOWLING ATTACK IN DISARRAY
The three uncapped Australian bowlers were always going to struggle to fit in immediately with very little experience around them to help them along. As I mentioned in my column before the series, the selectors were wrong to rest Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, but the way they’ve rotated their bowlers in this series has been even worse. The debutants have been treated like guinea pigs, not knowing whether they’re going to play the next game or not. From 46.2 overs between them, they’ve conceded 353 runs for just one wicket. They’ve used their second-most experienced bowler Scott Boland sparingly, and John Hastings has only taken the new ball once, leaving it up to the debutants. It’s a bizarre ploy from the Australian camp, and I see the Proteas cashing in again.
It’s expected to be overcast in the morning but clear throughout the day. Historically, St George’s Park has offered a bit more for the spinners. The Proteas might be tempted to bring in an extra spinner, but don’t expect too much difference to that of the Durban pitch. Australia’s record here is good with seven wins and three defeats, but against SA their record is only 4-3. The Proteas have won the last two matches here against the Aussies, but they’ve lost three in a row against Pakistan, West Indies and England. Their overall record isn’t bad, with 18 wins and 11 defeats. The highest total ever in ODIs here was Pakistan’s 335-6 back in 2002. Are we going to see yet another record broken in this series?
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