Proteas

Ouch! Proteas, Aussies show CWC frailties

2018-11-09 17:37
David Miller (Getty Images)

Cape Town – Many of the world’s best ODI teams would happily bag as their own the bowling attacks of both South Africa and Australia, traditional southern hemisphere superpowers, if they could.

But either of their current batting line-ups? Oh no … not nearly so much.

Friday’s second of three bilateral clashes, at Adelaide Oval, only underlined the enduring limitations both countries are experiencing in this format with the blade.

The Aussies won by seven runs in a game again dominated more convincingly by their respective bowling arsenals, to at least take the short series to an appealing decider in Hobart on Sunday (04:50 SA time).

But as happened in Perth a few days ago, when the Proteas coasted to a six-wicket triumph, fewer runs were evidenced in the contest – across both innings – than the surface seemed earmarked for.

Of course the big mitigating factor you could put forward for the generally run-shy nature of combat so far is the very quality of the respective attacks; we already knew that to be the case.

But each team’s batting shortcomings have nevertheless been all too apparent … and that despite the fact that, come CWC 2019 in the UK in late May, both should be able (and definitely eager) to reinfuse a pair of current absentees: Steve Smith and David Warner for Australia and Hashim Amla and JP Duminy for the Proteas.

Even the addition of those vastly experienced scrappers, however, may not be enough to seduce bookies into believing that Australia, albeit the defending champions and multiple winners, or South Africa, stalked by a tournament hoodoo despite their historical competitiveness, will be among the top two -- or even three? -- favourites for the 2019 edition.

England, the leaders, and next-placed India have a fairly clear-cut lead over the rest of the pack on the present ODI rankings and time – not to mention evidence from the here and now -- is running relatively short for neutrals to be able to harbour any pronounced belief that the trophy will not, frankly, go to either of those countries.

Apart from being host nation, England will boast a dreamily balanced side almost all the time at the World Cup, marked by influential enough batting right down to, probably, the No 10 slot or so.

As for India, the hunger and quality of their batting on limited-overs pitches (or at least when they are the belters so often laid on) is also beyond dispute -- and their own seam resources are considerably spicier than they were a few years ago.

For the moment, the Proteas and their great southern rivals only seem to muddle along as batting outfits, suggesting this area will be a serious impediment to their World Cup chances in a few months’ time.

The two completed batting cards from the Adelaide clash said so much about their plights.

First, by the judgement both of commentators and a couple of their own players briefly interviewed during the change-over, the Aussies fell anywhere between 50 and 80 runs short of a fitting total on the true, agreeably “coming onto the bat” drop-in pitch.

Even then, their total of 231 all out, with nine deliveries of the 50 overs left wasted, had to be inflated a little – it ended up being crucially so – by a last-wicket stand of 27 between Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood.

Three Australian batsmen got out in the forties … which is precisely the sort of ailment that has been afflicting South Africa, with their very questionably bowling-heavy composition of the XI, for more than a handful of months.

The hallmark duly, almost inevitably flipped over into the tourists’ knock, where David Miller (51) and Faf du Plessis (47) also failed the “kick-on to a biggie” test after looking suitably sturdy and in control for a fair while.

Other, more fringe Proteas stroke-players, desperate to secure their CWC squad slots but still not making noticeable enough headway on that mission in several cases, succumbed in often avoidable fashion after getting reasonably well rooted.

Truth be told, such is the regrettable length of the South African tail – Dale Steyn is many, many things but he is not an international No 8 – that the writing would have seemed firmly on the wall already to many, certainly including this writer, when the Proteas lost three wickets before the 50-mark was reached.

Truth be told, the Aussies actually prevailed by a more comfortable margin than those seven runs suggest, as SA also were beefed right at the death by a bit of “hit ‘n hope” from their own last-wicket alliance, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir.

Television commentator and illustrious former SA captain Graeme Smith spoke, as the visiting innings disappointingly subsided, of the ongoing “chicken and egg” dilemma for the country, where they keep putting out their best four bowlers for formidable strike clout but without regard for the adverse impact on batting depth.

Personal suggestion to head coach Ottis Gibson and others?

Like it or not, there is only mounting statistical evidence to suggest that an egg (or read: one specialist bowler) is going to have to be plucked, however reluctantly, from the basket to rebalance the team in favour of its now bright red-letter problem area …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket
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