South Africa kept the ODI series with Australia alive on Tuesday when they came out on top in the third match and the two sides head to Centurion on Friday to do battle for a fourth time with the spoils on the line once again.
The Proteas know they have to win this match if they are going to force a decider on Sunday while an Australian win ensures they head to India with the ultimate confidence boost behind them. World Cup prep is the ultimate aim here but there is a series on the line in the process.
When you consider how they had taken a few white ball batterings by the Australians in recent times, South Africa deserve a lot of credit for their performance in the third game. The pressure was on them in terms of having to win to stay in the series but at the same time this series is all about preparing for what is to come so it wasn’t like the sort of pressure South Africa could face in India over the next couple of months.
South Africa finally got to grips with this Australia bowling unit in Potchefstroom and took full advantage of being put into bat, a decision which looked a mistake quite quickly. What will have pleased South Africa the most was that their bowlers showed up for the first time in these white ball matches. They had conditions which suited them with the wicket turning more the longer the match went on but they still had to take advantage of them, which they were able to do.
After being so dominant in the early stages of this series and the T20 matches which came before it, I guess it was inevitable that Australia would have a bad day at the races at some point and that very much came along on Tuesday. They are still in a good position to win the series though and the odd disaster might even help them as it will keep their minds focused on good displays as they continue to build up towards the World Cup.
Australia won’t need me to tell them that their middle order looked an absolute mess against spin in the previous game and that is something they will be looking to address here. While they will head to India as one of the favourites to win the tournament, they are going to face spin in the middle overs and better spin than what South Africa provided so they will need to play it much better than they did in that third ODI.
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It seems as though Anrich Nortje has been ruled out of the remainder of this series so South Africa might decide to go in with the same team which won the previous match. If they do want to make a change they might look to Kagiso Rabada.
Australia have Michael Neser added to their squad so he might get a go either here or in Johannesburg on Sunday just to give some of the senior bowlers a rest. It appears Ashton Agar is done for the series.
I’ve been backing the Australia boundaries in the last two matches and the line has been covered in both games and with that line still not going up I am happy to keep feeding the horse that is winning the race for me. I would have been happy to take a 32.5 boundaries line at either of the previous grounds if this match was there but it is at SuperSport Park in Centurion where if we think back to the SA20 earlier in the season this was the highest scoring ground.
That is no surprise because the air is a little thinner in this part of the world and with no issues with the weather and an outfield that usually plays lightning fast not to mention much shorter boundaries than we’ve seen in the series so far, the only issue with this line being covered might be in South Africa making a mess of batting first. They are clearly improving the longer the series has gone on though so they should stick a score up which gives Australia enough to play with. Batting first or second I expect Australia to smoke this line again.
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