PRO­TEAS MUST START WELL

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA CRICKET WRITER

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

Pic­ture: Muzi Ntombela/ Back­pagePix

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.

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