If you’re not sick of one-day cricket by now, you’re in for a treat. Australia and South Africa square off in a five-match ODI series as both sides kick their World Cup prep into high gear. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points head of the series.
South Africa begin another chapter in their World Cup preparation when they take on Australia in a five-match ODI series beginning on Friday. Gary Kirsten has linked up with the side as a consultant and a mentor and Faf du Plessis reckons this is perfect prep for the possibility of facing the Aussies in the semi-final of the World Cup next year.
Five games and five chances to test combinations and options in the same conditions which will play host to next year’s World Cup will give South Africa one last chance to tinker with things before the competition rolls around next year. Here are five talking points ahead of the series.
Umpire communication will be broadcast
While it’s not directly related to the cricket being played, it is a big step forward in how the Decision Review System (DRS) is used. The communication between the on-field umpire and the upstairs umpire will be broadcast during the series for all appealed decisions. The trial could pave the way for something similar during the World Cup. It’s a pragmatic move by the ICC and will enhance the viewer experience tremendously. While those watching in the stadium will still have to sit around being confused, the TV viewers will get a better understanding of just how umpiring works and how decisions are made.
A tight contest awaits
South Africa recently beat Australia in the final of a tri-series held in Zimbabwe. In that aspect, the Proteas hold the upper hand. However, the two teams have very similar records in bilateral series over the last few months. Both teams have lost just one ODI series in their last five outings and both teams are favourites for the coveted World Cup crown next year. Australia also have a formidable home record. Since 2010, they have not lost a bilateral ODI series at home, winning seven out of eight and sharing the spoils with Sri Lanka in 2013. South Africa last played an ODI series in Australia back in 2009 and comfortably won 4-1. On current form, though, both teams are stronger and more motivated and it should be a really good test of World Cup candidate credentials for both teams.
Pace bowling at Perth
The first two fixtures of the series will be played in Perth at the famous WACA ground. For Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn, this is excellent news. The pace and bounce of the surface is famous for aiding the quicker bowlers, but there’s plenty of runs on offer too. In Johnson’s nine ODIs at the ground, he has 11 wickets at an average of 32.54. That’s not overly intimidating and if South Africa can keep their cool, they should be able to see him off. Steyn has never played an ODI at the WACA and also has a slightly high average in Australia overall. In the six ODIs he’s played Down Under, he has nine wickets at an average of 30.11 and an economy rate of 5.84. The South African quick is in the prime of his career, though, and the WACA surface has plenty for him to exploit.
Last chance saloon for the number seven conundrum
South Africa’s glaring weakness sits in their middle order. David Miller hasn’t quite performed and Ryan McLaren is a weak option as a number seven batsman. Farhaan Behardien has been ushered in to replace the injured JP Duminy and the six and seven spot has scrambled the selection options quite a bit. Still, South Africa will be glad it’s happened now rather than in the middle of a World Cup, at least they know what they’ve got to work with.
Pressure on South Africa’s top four
With JP Duminy out injured, the pressure on South Africa’s powerhouse top for will increase exponentially. While there is no doubt that they are talented, the added pressure and responsibility will reveal whether relying so heavily on a handful of players will bite them. The top four of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers have been in superb form over the last few months, but the middle order has often been found lacking and needs to step up to the plate. Duminy’s absence will also add extra pressure on the bowlers. As the go-to man to churn through a few overs, South Africa’s bowlers will all need to put in the hard yards of ten overs per match, unless, of course, AB de Villiers decides to take up that role again. DM
Main: Africa’s captain Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers pose with teammates and the trophy after winning the test cricket series against Sri Lanka in Colombo July 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)