March 4, 2020
South Africa v Australia
Venue: Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein | Start: 10:00pm (AEDT)
South Africa analysis: Backs to the wall after another series loss in the T20s, the Proteas were clinical in claiming victory by 74 runs in Game One on Saturday night. On yet another tricky batting surface, Henrich Klaasen (123* off 114 balls) and David Miller (64 off 70) guided the home side to 7/291, a total far too strong for the Aussies. As the game progressed it became apparent just how good those knocks were; the deck in Paarl ‘not easy’ to bat on according to Steve Smith. But perhaps the best move the Proteas made in Game One was to play Test off-spinner Keshav Maharaj alongside in-form wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. The pair finished with 1/48 and 2/45 respectively, and applied relentless pressure on the Australian middle order which eventually proved too much.
It was simply an off night for Justin Langer’s side, but South African counterpart Mark Boucher won’t be getting too carried away with the result such has been his side’s up-and-down form of late. The pressure is still squarely on them despite taking a series lead, as they’ve been in this position many times this summer. The Proteas led Test, ODI and T20 series against England, yet failed to take home any silverware.
For this clash in Bloemfontein, there’s little they will change. Kagiso Rabada’s groin strain is worse than first thought and has been categorically ruled out of this series. It’s unlikely the Proteas will want to change a winning formula, and will probably stick with a combination of three quicks (Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Andile Phehlukwayo) and two spinners (Maharaj and Shamsi).
Australia analysis: Quite simply, the Aussies were flat in Game One and threw away a strong start with the ball. The characteristic relentlessness with the ball and in the field fell away, and they were out-thought with the bat. Australia have now incredibly lost nine of their last 10 ODIs against the Proteas. They also haven’t won in South Africa since 2011. Is this the game they finally break the drought?
To do so, they’ll need to counter the spin of Maharaj and Shamsi, who dictated terms in Game One and may do so again on a surface that’s expected to be dry.“It wasn’t an easy wicket to play spin on,” Smith said after the defeat in Paarl. “Maharaj bowled some balls that really gripped and spun and a couple skidded on. It actually felt somewhat like an Indian wicket or a subcontinent wicket, so it was quite difficult to time the ball.
Ashton Agar was a surprise omissions from Game One and there’s every chance he’ll return to partner Zampa should the wicket provide turn. If that was to transpire, it will be one of Mitch Marsh or D’Arcy Short to make way. Marsh’s sub-standard results with the bat this series (yet to pass 20 in four innings) makes him the more likely player to make way.
Betting: The Mangaung Oval pitch is typically slow and with hot conditions forecast, it could become more difficult to bat on as the game progresses. For the Proteas, skipper Quinton de Kock remains the standout top runscorer option and the one who makes the power-play his own, provided of course he isn’t victim to another unplayable Starc delivery. With the ball, Shamsi’s form and accuracy makes him a strong option in the wicket-takers market. For the Aussies, Smith is in outrageous touch in the 50-over format (390 runs in last four innings) and is the player best placed to adapt to tricky surfaces. With the ball, Starc – as he was in Game One – remains a constant threat both from the top and in the death overs.
Head to Head: Australia
Top Runs Scorer – Aust: Steve Smith
Most Wickets – Aust: Mitchell Starc
Top Runs Scorer – Opponent: Quinton de Kock
Most Wickets – Opponent: Tabraiz Shamsi