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South Africa vs Australia, 1st ODI, Preview – Proteas seek salvation with the change in format against ruthless visitors

Kagiso Rabada has found himself under pressure ever since his return, having been rested during the limited-overs leg against England.

Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa’s summer of limited-overs cricket couldn’t have started in a better way. By beating England convincingly in the first ODI in Cape Town, the hosts sent a message that they are not disappearing into oblivion anytime soon. A drawn ODI series and a tight loss in T20Is didn’t necessarily derail their road to recovery. But just when Quinton de Kock’s men were beginning to get the lay of the land, Australia invaded their shores and swept the ground underneath them.

If it wasn’t for the visitors’ choking in Port Elizabeth, the Proteas could hardly draw any positives out of this series defeat. In retrospect, South Africa received the boost of Faf Du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada, both of whom rested against England. However, Rabada could contribute only two wickets in three matches at 57 while Du Plessis managed only 44 runs.

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In addition to their star-studded pace attack getting clubbed all over the place, their batsmen’s struggles against spinners resurfaced. Most of their batsmen were unable to read the questions posed by Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar. The duo, who shared 13 wickets between them throughout the series, was one of the crucial differences between the two teams.

And perhaps, a change in format may well have provided the Proteas with some respite if they hadn’t chosen to rest Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen from the ODI series. Instead, Quinton de Kock faces another stern test as a batsman and captain in the face of their best middle-order batsmen resting from the squad. In hindsight, van der Dussen and Du Plessis were the backbones of South Africa ending their dismal World Cup campaign with a victory over the defending champions.

Meanwhile, Australia will arrive at Boland Park with all the confidence in the world. They missed a chance to blank the South Africans in the shortest version which they can achieve in the three-game ODI series. But a change in format will remind the tourists of widening their gulf against India in their last two ODIs after winning the first by ten wickets. The presence of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith, and Marnus Labuschagne in their top four gives them little to worry about.

However, the focus again turns to their lower middle-order, which in the absence of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis suffered in India and the T20Is. The likes of Alex Carey, Mitchell Marsh, and Matthew Wade indeed need and deserve a longer rope to make their bat talk; however, Australia require naturals for now. Apart from that, the men in yellow also need Mitchell Starc to display more consistency as the same was largely invisible in the sub-continent.

Playing Combinations:

South Africa:

With Reeza Hendricks’ inconsistencies creeping up, the home side may blood Jaanemann Malan at the top along with De Kock. The absence of van der Dussen and Du Plessis opens up a couple of spots which would also determine who would retain their place for the tour of India. After missing the T20 series, Temba Bavuma could find himself back in the eleven. Anrich Nortje could feature in his first ODI since last March.

Probable XI – Quinton de Kock (c&wk), Reeza Hendricks/Janneman Malan, Temba Bavuma, David Miller, Heinrich Klassen, JJ Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi

Australia:

Australia’s top four looks extremely secure and sorted. Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, and Alex Carey will possibly occupy the next three spots. Josh Hazlewood, who only featured in the third ODI against India, looked in good nick and might get the nod ahead of Kane Richardson. Adam Zampa may probably sideline Ashton Agar to take the spot of the lone spinner in the line-up to start the series.

Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey(wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood/Kane Richardson.

Focus will be on:

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)

Kagiso Rabada has found himself under pressure ever since his return, having been rested during the limited-overs leg against England. The 24-year old speedster picked up only two wickets in three T20Is at an average of 57 along with an economy rate of 10.36. As the pace spearhead, Rabada’s indisciplined bowling combined with lack of variations in all phases of the innings mainly contributed to his hideous display. He would be desperately looking to prove a point.

Steve Smith (Australia)

We could be witnessing Steve Smith’s best years as an all-format batsman. Before his year-long ban from international cricket, Smith was mainly a renowned Test batsman and a mediocre limited-overs player. However, since his return, the 30-year old has proved his worth in white-ball cricket too.

The right-handed batsman was the top run-getter in the three ODIs in India and played a massive part in Australia’s victory against South Africa in T20s as well. Hence, he would be looking forward to extending his golden run across formats and not limiting himself to only the longest version.

Head to Head:

Played – 100 | Won by South Africa – 48 | Won by Australia – 48 | Tied – 3 |No result – 1

Stat Attack:

1- Australia will play their first ODI at the Boland Park on Saturday.

5 – The Proteas have won five out of their six ODIs played in Paarl. Their only loss came against New Zealand by a narrow margin of one wicket in 2013.

24 – Quinton de Kock needs 24 runs to go past JP Duminy’s tally of 5117 ODI runs.

21.77 – Currently, Mitchell Starc has the best bowling average in ODIs among the current crop of Australian bowlers. Only Dennis Lillee, who has an average of 20.82, has it better than Starc, standing at 21.77 presently.

6 – Pat Cummins needs six wickets to go past Dennis Lillee’s tally of 103 ODI scalps for Australia.

Broadcast details:

TV – Sony Six, Sony Six HD

Live streaming – Sony LIV

Match timings – 11:00 am local, 16:30 IST

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