South Africa v Australia, 3rd T20I, Preview - Aaron Finch and Co to rely on their middle-order for the series win

South Africa v Australia, 3rd T20I, Preview – Aaron Finch and Co to rely on their middle-order for the series win

With everything to play for in the final fixture, Australia will shoulder a little more responsibility on their middle-order.

Australian team
Australia. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

For this first time this decade, South Africa enter a finale off the back of a retaliating victory in the second match of a series. They surrendered a 1-0 lead in the recently concluded match-up against England in all three formats, winning the first game in each version but squandering their chances in subsequent outings.

However, after a serious 107-run thrashing in the series curtain-raiser, the bowlers clawed their side back and restored parity in the competition by clinching a crucial 12-run win in the second T20I. With the equation hanging in the balance, South Africa will lock horns with Australia in the final T20I on February 26, at Cape Town‘s Newlands Cricket Ground.

Quinton de Kock has shepherded his men will utmost brilliance, leading the way behind the stumps as well as at the top of the order amid a transitional phase in South African cricket. Should they fail to win, the Proteas could go a year without a bi-lateral series victory, a summation of the turmoil they’ve experienced in key areas in the last 12 months or so.

Australia meanwhile – well-armed and balanced – should have put the result beyond doubt in the second match, having raced to 98/1 a little after the halfway stage through their innings. David Warner (67* off 56) must be kicking himself, as despite batting for the entirety of the 20 overs, he failed to take his team over the line. Smith erred and purred for his 26-ball 29, with no other batsman able to put together a progressive partnership with Warner.

The inexperienced middle order that often latches on to the shoulders of one or two of the top three, failed to step up when the side needed a flourish at the end. Having said that, the likes of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada deserve substantial credit for executing their team’s plans with aplomb. On that note, we bring you all you need to know ahead of the much-awaited series finale between South Africa and Australia.

Team Combination

South Africa

Having found a rhythmic balance in their bowling, the hosts would not want to tinker their lower order, with Nortje (1-24) set to keep his place ahead of the legendary Dale Steyn. Dwaine Pretorious too should get the nod over Andile Phehlukwayo after a tidy performance with the ball.

At the top end, the management will have to scratch their heads over the availability of Temba Bavuma, who tweaked his hamstring in the final match versus England. He was subject to a late fitness test prior to the second T20I, meaning he could be fit for the last match. Should he return to the top, Rassie van der Dussen will slot in at number four.

Predicted XI: Quinton de Kock (C & WK), Reeza Hendricks/Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Petrus van Biljon, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje/Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi

Australia

With everything to play for in the final fixture, Australia will shoulder a little more responsibility on their middle-order. Warner, Smith and Finch have all glimmered, and each of them will know full well that if their team are to lift the trophy, the bulk of the runs have to come from their respective willows.

With the picturesque Newlands wicket set to assist the slower bowlers, Mitchell Marsh could pave way for D’Arcy Short, who can also be utilised with the ball. That would not just add four left-handers to the top six, but also shore up the batting in terms of adaptability and the license to shuffle the order based on situation. Following Kane Richardson’s sensational spell (2-21) in the previous match, he should keep his place ahead of Jhye Richardson and Sean Abbott.

Predicted XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (C), Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Alex Carey (WK), Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson

Focus will be on

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa) 

He was suspended for the final Test match against England, after which the hierarchy decided to give him a much-needed breather from white-ball cricket. When Kagiso Rabada returned to the fold in the first T20I, he looked way out of range. (3-0-45-0)

The fast bowler swung between poor lengths and deliveries with too much width, which at his pace, come at the batsman’s mercy. However, along with the wicket of an in-form Matthew Wade, Rabada controlled the flow of runs at the death courtesy impeccable application of the fuller deliveries. He will be raring to go in the final T20I, and Australia must look out for him.

Aaron Finch (Australia)

Australia’s skipper Aaron Finch, known for playing the big knocks even in the shortest format, has got his eye in on both occasions but been unable to translate the start into a match-winning inning. He was in magnificent touch in the first outing for his 27-ball 42, piercing the gaps and producing a gorgeous sound off the bat every single time he faced. He will look to lead by example in the fierce final encounter, and should he get himself peeled with 25-30 deliveries, Finch could place South Africa in peril.

Head-to-head

Matches – 20 | South Africa Won – 8 | Australia Won – 12 | Tie – 0 | No result – 0

Stat attack

185.58 – Quinton de Kock’s strike rate since the Mzansi Super League 2019 across all T20s. He also averages a maximum every 7.7 deliveries he faces on average.

78 – Faf du Plessis, presently enduring a rough patch of form, has amassed a 50+ score in T20Is only once in the last 16 innings. His 78 versus Pakistan in February 2019 was his first T20I half-century in almost three years.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony Six

Live streaming – Sony LIV

Match timings – 6:00 PM local time (9:30 PM IST)