South Africa v Australia First ODI
Friday September 30, 9:30pm
South Africa and Australia kick-off a five-match ODI series on Friday when they clash at Centurion’s SuperSport Park.
The hosts have been struck by the news that captain AB de Villiers will miss the entire series (as well as the subsequent tour to Australia) due to elbow surgery. In de Villiers’ absence Faf du Plessis will take over the captaincy reigns, while powerful middle-order batsman Rilee Rossouw has earned a reprieve after being originally left out of the squad in favour of David Miller.
Spearhead Dale Steyn also returns after missing the Proteas’ last ODI series in June, however he will be missing his partner in crime Morne Morkel who was ruled out after failing to overcome a back injury.
Young all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo has been elevated to the squad after some impressive performances for South Africa A in their recent quadrangular series in Australia and will be hoping to put pressure on the more established Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell.
Leg spinner Imran Tahir will again play a key role, especially with the Proteas less likely to play two spinners at home which means there will only be limited opportunities for both Aaron Phangiso and Tabraiz Shamsi.
The Proteas will be looking to maintain their strong recent record at home where they have won their past five ODI series’ including a one-off thumping of Ireland in Benoni on Sunday.
Australia come into the series off the back of a comprehensive 4-1 defeat of Sri Lanka, however their bowling stocks have been severely diminished with the resting of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood compounded by injuries to James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter-Nile, while James Pattinson also failed to recover in time to be considered.
As a result, the Aussies have called on three uncapped rookies in Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall to support Victorian pair John Hastings and Scott Boland in what may prove to be a very tough assignment. On the bright side for the World Champions, key all-rounder Mitchell Marsh returns after being rested for the Sri Lankan series, however brother Shaun has succumbed to a broken finger, allowing Usman Khawaja to come back into the squad.
Captain Steve Smith is also back on board after he was spared the last three games in Sri Lanka, although Glenn Maxwell has again been omitted despite impressing in the T20 arena. The Aussies enter the series is impressive form, having won seven of their past eight ODIs and they also warmed up for the series with a comfortable nine-wicket win over Ireland on Wednesday.
SuperSport Park has been a very friendly venue for the batsmen in recent times with the last four first innings scores all exceeding 300, including the last ODI here in February when England’s 8/318 was chased down by the Proteas for the loss of only three wickets and with 22 balls to spare. Classy opener Hashim Amla has a particularly good record here, averaging 69.20 from 11 innings at the ground, including four centuries.
- South Africa have won 13 of their past 17 ODIs at home
- However South Africa have won only one of their past five ODIs against Australia.
- Australia have won seven of their past eight ODIs, all away from home.
- However players missing from the Australian squad have taken more than 50% of wickets in this format in 2016.
- Australia have hit more sixes than their opponents in only four of their last nine ODIs.
The home side are relatively narrow favourites to draw first blood in the series with Australia marginal outsiders despite their recent run of form.
I must admit I was expecting to see South Africa at a shorter price, owing to their strong record on home soil and the fact they are coming up against an incredibly weakened Australian bowling attack. However, Australia’s ODI side seem to have a resilience and adaptability not found within their test set up and this cannot be ignored.
Despite regularly missing players, the Aussies have opened up a wide gap at the top of the ICC ODI rankings and with the hosts missing their most destructive batsman I’m not in a hurry to oppose the visitors just yet, although as a general tactic you shouldn’t go too far wrong taking on the Australians in the field.
While I can’t quite justify a bet on the match odds there is one area where we can exploit Australia’s undermanned bowling unit in the pre-match markets. Although they have dominated their opponents in recent times, the Australian side have not won matches by clearing the ropes regularly, having hit more sixes than their opponents in only four of their past nine ODIs. In that time, they averaged just 3.1 sixes per match, conceding 3.4 with the ball.
On the other hand, South Africa have hit an average of 4.1 sixes per game in their last nine ODIs, striking more maximums than their opponents in five of those nine. They have also come out on top of the sixes ledger in their last four ODIs at SuperSport Park.
They may be without their most proficient six-hitter in de Villiers, however in Miller (50 sixes in 74 innings) and Rossouw (19 sixes in 30 innings) they have more than capable replacements and come up against one of the more-feeble Australian attacks in recent times.
Although they eventually cantered to a comfortable victory it should not be forgotten that the Australian pace attack caused Ireland’s top order little trouble as they raced to 2/112 after 21 overs, hitting a couple of sixes along the way. So with all that in mind I have no hesitation in backing South Africa to hit the most sixes in the opening encounter.
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