Cape Town – Never mind that India have sneaked into top spot
on the rankings for the time being ... two largely in-form sides will be
locking horns when Australia and South Africa start their five-match ODI series
in Perth on Friday (05:20 SA time).
The Indians have romped into an unassailable 3-0 lead in
their own five-game series against a thus far listless Sri Lanka, nudging them
ahead of the Proteas on the list and also meaning the Aussies are limited to
But the situation is very fluid and everything could change,
depending on whether the ‘Lankans manage to end their series a bit better than
they have started it, and which way the Oz-SA combat goes.
Whatever happens over the next three months, both the
Aussies and Proteas are going to be among hottest favourites for the
fast-looming 2015 World Cup, especially given the southern hemisphere
conditions it will be played in.
You could hardly wish for a spicier start than a
double-header at the famously pace-friendly WACA ground (Friday and Sunday),
with Aussie spearhead Mitchell Johnson already full of bravado in the local
media about his wish to cash in on that deck with its dreamy carry.
South Africa’s own premier scalp hunter, Dale Steyn, will
hardly be demotivated, either, with an extra whiff of testosterone in the air
given his apparent personal feud with the home team’s captain Michael Clarke,
something that had its roots in an unflattering sledge from “Pup” during last
summer’s Test series in SA.
A much less wet-behind-the-ears Proteas team than the one
which was pipped 2-1 in the preceding Twenty20 series will also renew
acquaintance with another Aussie who doesn’t necessarily crack some of their
Christmas card lists in the shape of belligerent stroke-player David Warner.
Oddly, Warner has struggled to match in ODIs thus far his
feats in the Test arena: he averages a humdrum 32.15 from 45 appearances and
that is a long way shy of 50-plus characters in the Proteas’ midst Hashim Amla
and AB de Villiers.
Specifically in matches against South Africa – seven –
Warner’s average drops even further to 28.71, so the visiting attack will be
keen to keep it that way.
A glance at the last five bilateral series contested by each
of these sides only further indicates how it is a meeting of irresistible force
versus immovable object in so many ways.
The Proteas, like the Aussies, have just one blemish along
the way – losing to Pakistan 2-1 on South African soil last year, when they
were still chopping and changing combinations more than they are now – and have
won 11 of the 13 full contests they’ve played.
Meanwhile the Australians have clinched 12 of their own 17
bilateral games in the period mentioned, and also only played second fiddle in
one of the five series, being edged 3-2 in India which is no major disgrace.
During this period for each team, there was also the
triangular in Zimbabwe where South Africa eventually earned bragging rights,
beating their fierce rivals by six wickets in the final.
One thing we all know is just how different the WACA
environment will be this weekend to the considerably more benign, gripping
surfaces of Harare in August and September, so strap in and try to enjoy the
Last five bilateral
series (from most recent) for both sides:
*Beat New Zealand 2-0 away (scheduled 3-match series)
*Beat Zimbabwe 3-0 away (3)
*Beat Sri Lanka 2-1 away (3)
*Beat India 2-0 home (3)
*Lost to Pakistan 2-1 home (3)
*Beat Pakistan 3-0 away (3)
*Beat England 4-1 home (5)
*Lost to India 3-2 away (7)
*Beat England 2-1 away (5)
*Beat Scotland 1-0 away (1)
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