PROTEAS MUST START WELL
A POSITIVE start in Sunday’s opening ODI is crucial for South Africa, if the latest additions to the history books are anything to go by.
One-day series between Australia and South Africa have tended to be rather one-sided of late. The recent norm has been that the team that takes the early ascendancy runs away with the whole thing, leaving the enemy in the dust.
When South Africa last visited Australia they were dusted 4-1, back in 2014/15.
That was against the side that would go on to lift the World Cup on home soil later that summer. They were on a roll, and they took a lot of momentum from their dismantling of the Proteas.
Faf du Plessis and his men got a measure of revenge on the Aussies two seasons later, when they handed them a 5-0 drubbing in South Africa. In that series, everything that South Africa touched turned to gold.
The match at Kingsmead, for example, was telling. Chasing a mammoth 372 to win, South Africa looked dead and buried, despite the beautiful batting strip. Australia were lifted to their total by centuries from David Warner and Steve Smith, strangely enough.
371/6 looked a terrific target, and perhaps a bridge too far when South Africa slipped to 217/5 after 31.1 overs.
And yet, David Miller grew increasingly bolder with time, as he made perhaps his finest one-day century (118 not out off 79 balls), and found a willing partner in Andile Phehlukwayo, who made an entertaining 42 not out.
Australia winced as South Africa whooped next to them, and the sting of that result will still be with those who were at Kingsmead for the hosts on Sunday. Australian cricket teams hate to lose, perhaps more than any other sporting side outside the All Blacks.
They used to dominate with a similar ruthlessness and relentlessness, but the game has caught up to them. They are no longer the leading lights in the world, and they might not even hold the fear of old.
They have been telling anyone who will listen that they are ‘nice blokes’, but you can be sure that the ‘Superbloke’ cap will dissolve away if they get a sniff of victory. It remains the Australian way, and Du Plessis and his men would not have it any other way.
Thus, come Sunday, how South Africa start may well determine where they end up in this series. Given that it is only three matches, instead of the five in each of the last two meetings, the need to hit the ground running is even more pertinent.
Australia play South Africa in the first ODI in Perth on Sunday, which will be a day-night match.
• Start: Sunday, 5am SA time
BAT-MAN: David Miller of South Africa will remember his quickfire 118 off just 79 balls made against Australia at Kingsmead as the teams face off on Sunday in Perth.