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.
of their current batting line-ups? Oh no … not nearly so much.
of three bilateral clashes, at Adelaide Oval, only underlined the enduring
limitations both countries are experiencing in this format with the blade.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
completed batting cards from the Adelaide clash said so much about their
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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