The Proteas share a rich history with Australia, especially when it comes to ODI cricket. And no matter how much ever South Africa may be struggling, they find their mojo against the Aussies. On Saturday in Paarl, before their ninth victory in ODIs in the last ten matches, the hosts surrendered meekly in the T20Is. And by losing three wickets inside ten overs for 48 after choosing to bat first, another submission loomed on the cards.
When all seemed gone, South Africa’s young men in the middle-order rose to the occasion in the absence of Rassie van der Dussen and Faf Du Plessis. The pack of Australian wolves were on the hunt, but Kyle Verreyne and Heinrich Klassen weren’t in the mood to let them run away. It was all about sticking to the basics for the duo. Playing risk-free cricket, running hard between the wickets, and getting the odd boundary formed the cornerstone of their 84-run stand for the fourth wicket.
It set a reasonable if not the ideal launchpad, one David Miller fancied as he strode out at the exit of Verreyne for 48 on debut. And yet, it was not the killer-Miller knock; however, his stand of 149 with Klassen helped complete more than a respectable salvage job for his side.
But Klassen’s maiden century that earned him the man of the match award in their 74-run triumph was precisely South Africa’s hour of need when the chips were down. It was the perfect way for him to repay the faith coach Mark Boucher placed on him and most importantly, it relieved the pressure off Quinton De Kock.
Amid their batsmen’s revival, the bowlers deserved equal credit for not letting the tourists off the hook. The Proteas’ mixed it up with expertise on a two-paced pitch and a deck that kept deteriorating with time. The spin twins of Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj had received an ideal track to showcase their ability, and they did by picking up three crucial wickets.
Pace spearhead Lungi Ngidi‘s timely strikes and outfoxing the middle-order on multiple occasions were even more challenging to get away with for Australia. South Africa have the momentum on their side and unlike in Cape Town in the third T20I, they must be careful not to squander it and let Australia back in the series.
The middle-order woes followed Australia to Paarl after haunting them in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town. Steve Smith’s growth as a potent ODI batsman would only be justified if he can craft a more impactful inning. It means that Smith must raise the tempo of scoring when needed desperately and so does Marnus Labuschagne. The lack of a proven power-hitter, who holds the reputation as that of Glenn Maxwell, has been hurting them continuously.
Also, Australia must exhibit more flexibility and dynamism with their batting-order, mainly during steep run-chases. At the loss of David Warner in the ninth over, a promotion to Alex Carey may have given him the time and go after the bowlers when set.
Instead, the wicketkeeper-batsman came in when the pitch became a minefield for the new batsmen and with more than 100 runs still needed. It may also be time that the selectors do away with Mitchell Marsh once and for all and give Marcus Stoinis his second run.
South Africa will most likely head to Bloemfontein with the combination that beat Australia at the Boland Park. But the hosts’ opening combination would be in focus, having failed on three out of four occasions in the tour from putting on a respectable stand.
Probable XI: Janneman Malan, Quinton de Kock (c&wk), Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne, Heinrich Klassen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi
It may be a big call, but the Men in Yellow might include Matthew Wade for Marnus Labuschagne. The need of the hour for Australia is power-hitters more than accumulators. D’arcy Short could also make way for Ashton Agar since the former conceded 35 runs in five overs while only scoring 12 runs off his bat.
Probable XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch(c), Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne/Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, D’arcy Short/Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa
Focus will be on:
Quinton de Kock (South Africa)
Quinton de Kock has had a disappointing series across formats so far with the bat. Barring his knock in the second T20I in Port Elizabeth, the Australian bowlers have kept him quiet. With the middle-order slowly getting in shape and other batsmen chipping in, the skipper should be able to bat with relatively less pressure. A series victory against Australia would be a massive boost for his captaincy resume.
Alex Carey (Australia)
Since his promising 2019 World Cup campaign, Alex Carey is yet to deliver a notable performance with the bat. The southpaw had a couple of chances in India which he failed to seize. At the Boland Park on Saturday, Carey got sucked into the pressure created by Shamsi and spooned a catch to long-off.
The keeper-batsman expressed his ambition to be an MS Dhoni-like power-hitter, and thus he must make use of such opportunities to build his reputation. Maxwell’s unavailability means that the onus of playing slam-bang cricket lies with him as Australia’s regular member in the white-ball format.
Head to head:
Played – 101 |Won by South Africa – 49 | Won by Australia – 48 | Tied – 3 | No result – 1
300 – The last five matches at the Mangaung Oval witnessed 300 plus scores while batting first.
9 – Quinton de Kock is nine runs adrift from overtaking JP Duminy’s tally of 5117 ODI runs.
2 – Australia hold the upper hand at the Mangaung Oval, having won two out of three games contested between the two sides.
TV – Sony Six, Sony Six HD
Live streaming – Sony LIV
Match timings – 11:00 am local, 16:30 IST
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