SAcricketmag.com discusses five talking points ahead of Friday’s first ODI at Centurion.
The Proteas and Australia have a colourful past in the 50-over format, evident from their head-to-head record which has seen Australia win just seven more than the Proteas in the 91 ODIs they’ve played. They’ve done battle no less than 11 times since 2014, with Australia holding the edge over their opposition too, with six victories. The last five-match series between them ended in a 4-1 victory to Australia Down Under, but the Proteas won three five-match series in a row between before that, stretching back to the world-renowned 438 game in 2006. You have to go back to 2011 to witness the last time the sides met in Centurion, with the Australians winning that one by 93 runs. The 3-3 record the sides have at Supersport Park suggests this is anyone’s to play for.
CONFIDENCE IS BACK
It’s amazing what a return to form can do to your confidence, and even if it was just against Ireland, there’s a buoyant mood in the camp thanks to that crushing 206-run victory on the weekend. JP Duminy will be eager to build on after his 52 and 4-16, pushing on from his gritty 82 in the second Test against New Zealand. Farhaan Behardien’s 21-ball 50 would have got him feeling he’s adding some value to the side too. With a bit of winning momentum behind them, stretching back to that Test series against the Black Caps, the Proteas should have the belief to push on against a side missing several of their regular players.
COPING WITHOUT AB
The ongoing injury issues affecting the ODI and Test skipper will be sure to have unsettled the team, even more so now that he’s been ruled out of the Test series Down Under too. De Villiers’ record against Australia in ODIs is staggering. He’s passed 50 in 11 of his 25 matches against them, averaging just a shade under 60. That sort of firepower and influence will be missed, but they’ve spent the summer season without him so far, and a number of players have stepped up in his absence. This is an excellent, extended opportunity for Faf du Plessis to flex his captaincy muscles and continue his good form with the bat in this format, which has seen him average over 50 in each of the past three seasons. Rilee Rossouw has been drafted in to provide batting cover, which might seem a bit harsh on debut centurion Temba Bavuma on surface level, but it was a shoulder injury that kept Rossouw out of the setup in the first place. Pressure will be on him, along with the likes of experienced players such as Duminy and David Miller, to show that there’s some depth to their middle order without AB.
I’m sure Dale Steyn won’t feature in all five matches in this series to manage his workload, but it’s good to see a player of his calibre in the side. He adds something Australia don’t have in their squad for this series: experience. He’s played against the Aussies 20 times and has a very commendable 37 wickets at an average of 26.21, including three of his seven career four-fors. He’s missed all 11 of South Africa’s ODIs this year, and while his days are numbered in this format, he’ll be keen to get some overs under his belt ahead of the proper contest, the Test series Down Under in November. He forms a decent ODI pace trident with Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell. There shouldn’t be too many problems in the bowling department for the Proteas in this series, with Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso providing capable options in the spin department, with all-rounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius eagerly waiting in the wings.
POUNCE ON DEPLETED SIDE
As I mentioned above, Australia are severely lacking experience in their bowling ranks. They’ve flooded this department with three new caps in Daniel Worrall, Chris Tremain and Joe Mennie. It puts a bit of a dampener on the contest, but it’s also an opportunity for the Proteas to take advantage of Australia’s depleted resources and get the job done. Hypothetically, and this is obviously very ambitious, a 4-1 or 5-0 win to the Proteas would send them to No 2 in the world – a morale-boosting position ahead of next year’s Champions Trophy. The Aussies still have a strong top order with David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith central to their success. Should the Proteas bowling attack remove them early, however, they will have to rely on a lot of inexperience.
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