The Proteas will have nothing but pride to play for in their final World Cup match against Australia in Manchester, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Proteas will head into the final round-robin clash with Australia after an eight-day break. They are already out of the running for the World Cup semi-finals, and must be desperate to get back to South Africa.
Perhaps they will have something to gain from the game in Manchester, though. A victory against Australia would boost their tally to three wins in nine matches. It’s not a record to be proud of, but one would hope that the Proteas leave England with at least one big scalp in the bag.
The game will mark Imran Tahir’s final ODI appearance for South Africa. The veteran leg-spinner has confirmed that he will retire after the World Cup.
One would expect Tahir to feature in Manchester as the team looks to give him a fitting send-off. Hashim Amla – who’s had a poor tournament – may also be included for sentimental reasons.
On the other hand, the Proteas selectors may see this as an opportunity to back those who haven’t had a lot of game time over the course of this campaign. It may benefit the team in the long term to favour players who will still be around for the 2023 World Cup.
The Proteas hammered Sri Lanka by nine wickets last Friday. Do they have what it takes to beat an Australian side that has already qualified for the playoffs, though?
The batting will be under scrutiny. Not that it matters in the context of the playoff conversation, but the top six will be looking to prove a point against a quality Australian attack.
Mitchell Starc has taken the most wickets (24) at this World Cup. The left-arm quick looks set to break Glenn McGrath’s record of 26 dismissals at a global tournament – and possibly in this very match.
The Proteas have been disappointing on the bowling front. Apart from Tahir and Chris Morris, the South African bowlers have battled to impose themselves to any telling degree.
Each bowler will need to be at the top of his game on Saturday. David Warner (who is averaging 73 at this tournament) and Aaron Finch (63) are going to be difficult to contain.
PLAYER TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Tahir – at least in a South African context – as he represents the Proteas ODI side for the final time. One would hope that the bowler receives the necessary support in the field and that he signs off on a high.
One cannot see this Proteas side upsetting Australia, though. The Aussies have grown stronger as the tournament has progressed and look set to finish at the top of standings.
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