Five areas Proteas need to get right to win against Australia and at World Cup

06 September 2023 - 17:21
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The Proteas conduct warmups and drills in a training session at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
The Proteas conduct warmups and drills in a training session at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
Image: Charle Lombard

The Proteas play the first of three ODIs against Australia in Bloemfontein on Thursday, having lost in a clean sweep in the three T20Is.

TimesLIVE has identified five that will be crucial for a series win against Australia and a successful campaign at the ICC Cricket World Cup in India in October and November.

QUINTON DE KOCK

“I wasn’t in the loop as regards his decision. You can expect anything from 'Quinny',” Temba Bavuma said about De Kock announcing this week he will quit the ODI format after this year’s World Cup.

While De Kock’s talent — “maybe too much talent”, chirped Bavuma — is not in doubt, his overall output with the bat in ODIs, in which he averages nearly 45, drops to 30 at the World Cup.

Still, Bavuma said De Kock was the “freest” he’d ever seen him and since the start of the year, was more bubbly around the group. All of which Bavuma hopes will lead to success on the field for a player the South African captain acknowledged he leant on for tactical advice.

GERALD COETZEE

The Proteas' “World Cup bolter” gets an immediate go in front of friends and family in the first ODI on Thursday at what was for years his home ground. Coetzee provides a raw mix of aggression and passion that could rile opponents but prove galvanising among his teammates.

He stood up well against the Australians in T20s, even though his bowling lacked consistency. He’s got plenty of pace and has aligned that with smart use of the slower ball. A big hitter, it is more his situational awareness with the bat that will come under scrutiny during the series. 

HEINRICH KLAASEN

The ear-splitting “THWACK” produced as Klaasen practised in the nets on Wednesday provided a small — and loud — sample of the type of devastation the 32-year-old has wrought about the world this year. The Australians, some of whom he’s shared changerooms with in various T20 Leagues, are certainly aware of his form and ability.

Klaasen has said the key to his recent run-scoring burst has been the ability to set aside concerns about consequence. As a result, the Proteas’ middle order looks as strong as ever.

South Africa's Heinrich Klaasen 119 (61b, 15x4, 5x6) in the third ODI between South Africa and West Indies in Potchefstroom.

PACE

Australia’s starting XI for Thursday’s opener features two front-line spin options in Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa. That may be a consequence of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc not being part of the series, but it also suggests they are cognisant of spinning conditions in India.

The Proteas, by contrast, have Kagiso Rabada, Coetzee, Marco Jansen — all of whom are capable bowling 140km/h-plus — and Lungi Ngidi in their starting line-up, with Keshav Maharaj the sole spinner. The home team are leaning heavily on their historic strength, in the belief that even in perfect batting conditions pace is unsettling. 

LOWER-ORDER RUNS

Australia have a host of all-rounders in their World Cup squad, while South Africa are relying on bowlers “who bat a bit”. It’s a dangerous ploy, as evidenced in the T20 series, when the top order collapsed twice, exposing the tail.

The Proteas are understandably confident about their top-six batters for ODIs, but a great many limited-overs matches are decided by runs from the lower order. No 7 seems a spot too high for Jansen, Coetzee or Sisanda Magala, yet the selectors are trusting a combined effort from them, with Maharaj and Rabada — both capable with the willow — to get the necessary runs.   


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