AUS vs. SA: 1st ODI – A near on perfect performance

It has been seven months since that fateful Newlands Test (fateful for Australia anyway), and Australia and South Africa met again, in a limited overs series in Australia.

Faf won the toss and elected to bowl first, and on a Perth pitch that offered some pace and bounce, this was a good choice. The team picked by the Proteas was the best one possible, given the injuries to Hashim Amla and JP Duminy. After the tour game against the PMXI last week, they dropped Behardien and Pretorius and brought back Klaasen and Phehlukwayo.

South Africa got off to a perfect start with Dale Steyn, returning to the city where he first broke his shoulder 2 years ago, racing in with a new ball. It took Steyn only 9 deliveries to strike, removing opener Travis Head for 1 and then 2 balls later, D’Arcy Short caught at 2nd slip with a good catch by captain Faf, for a duck. Australia were in trouble on 4-2.

In the first powerplay, Australia had made 19-3 and South Africa hadn’t conceded a single boundary, the last time that happened, was in 2007. It took until the 12th over for Australia to hit their first boundary, to cheers from the crowd.

Australian captain, Aaron Finch was given out LBW to Ngidi, and after a quick look to his batting partner, he walked off, replays showed though that he should have gone for the review. With the bounce in the wicket, he should’ve known that the ball would’ve gone over the stumps. Was this part of Australia’s new “elite honesty”? To not question the umpire.

Alex Carey and Chris Lynn started to rebuild the Aussie innings with their partnership of 28 before Lynn became Andile Phehlukwayo’s first of three wickets today.

The opening bowling from South Africa was good, on point and disciplined, when Phehlukwayo was brought into the attack, the pressure would’ve been on him to keep up that pressure. Encouragingly he did a brilliant job. It was good to see him bowl with the same discipline and pick up wickets too. For his young age and lack of experience, he has shown more progress in his game than Chris Morris. Phehlukwayo is the all-rounder I would like to see in the World cup squad, not Morris.

Despite a counter-attack cameo from Nathan Coulter-Nile towards the latter stages of the innings, top scoring for the Aussies with 34, Australia were still bundled out for a sub-par 152 in 38.1 overs.

It was a ruthless and disciplined bowling performance from South Africa, something I have been calling for from them for a while. Faf, sensing an opportunity to go in for the kill, brought his strike bowler, Ngidi, back into the attack. It was good captaincy and good tactics, something I’d like to see more of from Faf.

South Africa had a cautious pre-lunch session to bat as Australia were bowled out early. In an interesting twist, the Proteas opened the batting with QDK and Hendricks, with Markram moved down to 3. Perhaps this was a ploy to change Hendricks’ luck with his scores.

Australia needed early wickets, things didn’t go to plan for them. Coulter-Nile and Hazlewood were hit for 25 in the first 3 overs and had conceded four boundaries in the first 18 deliveries.

At lunch, South Africa had reached 30-0, it was a solid start to their batting, with some lovely strokes played by QDK and the most solid start to their batting in recent times.

The Proteas opening batsmen continued their positive work after lunch, reaching 94 before the first wicket fell. In a very disappointing fashion, QDK threw his wicket away on 47. Reeza Hendricks was then dismissed for 44,  Aiden Markram chopped on for 36, and Heinrich Klaasen didn’t last long either, dismissed on 2.

South Africa however still got home to a comfortable and comprehensive win by 6 wickets. Dale Steyn was rightfully Man of the Match for his 2-18.

This was a near on perfect performance from South Africa, absolutely outplayed Australia in all departments. It was just ruined slightly at the end with the loss of a few unnecessary wickets.

They must be careful that they do not get complacent now for the remaining games. This one good performance doesn’t mean the hard work is over, that the batting problems are magically resolved. They must still work hard and do the basics right.

What was incredibly disappointing was that while the top order batting today was better, the fact that none of the top three made a half-century despite their good starts is a cause for concern.

Australia looked all out of sorts today, and conceded another ODI loss, making their run of late a very sour looking 2 wins out of their last 19 games, but that doesn’t mean that they will continue this downward spiral in the next game. South Africa need to be ready for anything.

South Africa lead the 3-match series 1-0 with the 2nd ODI on Friday 9th November at 05:20 SA time.

Posted in The Popping Crease.