Written by Rick John Henry for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Australia vs South Africa | Wednesday 19 November | Canberra | 05:20
Australia could not follow up their impressive performance in the first ODI, sliding to a three-wicket loss in the return match in Perth. As in the first encounter, the scorecard flattered the loser and the margin of victory should have been greater for a Protea side with ambitions of World Cup glory. Nevertheless, the series in tied at one match apiece and the tourists will feel confident of an overall victory as the cricket moves away from the WACA. South Africa fielded and bowled much better than in their opening outing and if concerns with the bat can be laid to rest, will be extremely difficult to beat for an Australian side attempting to juggle commitments.
South Africa 11/10
A shambolic display with the bat left Australia with far too few to make a realistic challenge for victory in the second ODI in Perth. Skittled in the 42nd over for 154, the home side were left to search for miracles with the ball to prevent embarrassment. Josh Hazlewood almost delivered exactly that, picking up his first five-wicket haul in ODI cricket and having been on a hat-trick twice in the innings. Australia will be well pleased with his development and considering his possible Test future. However, one man on a mission could not right the wrongs from Australia’s turn at the crease. Nathan Coulter-Nile failed to follow his impressive first display in Perth, this time loose and expensive. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the batsmen, Mitchell Marsh’s 67 being the only individual score above 25 in the entire innings. Fun Fact: No other batsman has hit Dale Steyn for as many sixes in ODIs.
The second ODI was also the first time that both Australian openers were dismissed for single figures in 2014. In fact, one must go back five years for the last time that David Warner was dismissed for a duck in one-day cricket. For the Proteas, it shows the increased importance of early wickets against a robust Australian opening partnership. Mitchell Starc returns to the squad as Mitchell Johnson receives a rotational rest for the remainder of the series, while Xavier Doherty has been preferred to Nathan Lyon in the spin department. Michael Clarke is injured once again and will play no further part against South Africa.
Morne Morkel’s career-best figures of 5/21 made short work of Australia’s batsmen and catapulted the Proteas to victory. The decision for Morkel to open the bowling was an inspired one and with his vicious pace and bounce, may be the correct option going forward in Australia. Philander bowled with incredible control and accuracy once again, but in the ODI format is probably best utilised as a first-change who can tighten the screws. The Proteas’ strong performance perhaps also shows how fortunate Australia were that the South Africans shelled all of those chances in the opening match. However, warning signs were still present as South Africa limped to victory in a chase not as straightforward as it seemed. AB de Villiers and David Miller were once again resolute in defiance while Rilee Rossouw briskly reached 30. Quinton de Kock was dismissed for 4, confirming his recent struggle for form. Nevertheless, without Ryan McLaren the balance in the Proteas side is better as they are able to bat deeper. Miller at seven and Philander at eight is a formidable beginning to the lower-order. JP Duminy should replace Behardien when fit despite the latter sending down some useful overs in the second ODI. Overall, Behardien is not a long-term solution in the all-rounder role.
Manuka Oval in Canberra plays host to the third ODI, a very important match in the context of the series. Only three previous ODIs have ever been hosted in the Australian capital, South Africa featuring in the first with a seven wicket win over Zimbabwe in the 1992 World Cup. Canberra would wait sixteen years for another chance at hosting international cricket, as India and Sri Lanka clashed in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank triangular series. Last year, Australia beat the West Indies by 39 runs at the ground in a high scoring contest dominated by Shane Watson. Hardly any chance of rain should see a full contest.
VERDICT: South Africa 11/10
Australia’s limited experience at the ground may not count for all that much as the two sides clash in Canberra. Certain forced rotations may also take their toll on an Australian unit with one eye already on the upcoming Test series against India. I like the outsiders in this one; the Proteas simply seem the more focussed on excellence of the two at this stage in the series.