Australia head into the fourth one-day international at St George’s tomorrow well aware that taking early South African wickets will be key if they are to taste any success.
But knowing what one has to do and actually executing those skills under intense pressure are two different matters. Their best-laid plans with the new ball have gone awry throughout the series.
Not that South Africa have been much better at striking early but they are not the ones chasing the game. In fact, South Africa will be gunning for a whitewash and on the evidence of what they have delivered so far it looks a pretty decent bet.
All Australia have left to play for in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are pride and a measure of respectability before they head back home.
The Dave Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo show put the series result to bed in Durban mid-week. Thanks to their heroics, South Africa assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
The inexperienced Australian bowling attack has been put to the sword with conviction by the South African batsmen.
“We bowled poorly,” coach Darren Lehmann said after the Durban game.
“The blokes have trained and prepared well and bowled really well in the nets. International cricket is quite pressurised out there so we’ve just got to get used to that.”
South Africa are averaging 94 for the first wicket in 12 overs throughout the three matches played so far.
“For us, we’ve got to find a way to get some early wickets and put pressure back on South Africa,” Lehmann said.
Having won the series in some style on Wednesday night, South Africa gave their players two days off, with an optional training session at St George’s yesterday afternoon.
The remainder of the squad will join training today and the pre-match talk will be about producing much of the same.
“We spoke about it after the game on Wednesday,” allrounder Dwaine Pretorius told media at St George’s Park yesterday.
“We gave ourselves a few days to enjoy the win. And now we want to go out there and beat Australia five-zip. We want to do that. I don’t think there are too many sides who can say they have done that. We not taking anything for granted and we are not going to just drift along in the next two games.”
South Africa have performed well as a unit against Australia and Pretorius said the foundation was being laid for a sound future.
“It’s been a great team effort from everyone. Just shows you if everyone pulls his weight what the South African team can actually do. That’s a great stepping stone going into the future and the ICC Trophy next year.”
South Africa may decide to make some changes to their personnel in the dead rubbers. This could bring players like Tabraiz Shamsi, Aaron Phangiso and Kyle Abbott into the reckoning over the next two games.
Team management may consider giving strike bowler Kagiso Rabada a rest considering the amount of work he will have to perform over three formats of the game this summer.
They may opt to play two spinners, which means either Shamsi or Phangiso could get the nod if they do decide to rest either Rabada or Dale Steyn.
But Australia’s Travis Head is not too concerned about facing left-arm unorthodox spinner Shamsi if he does play.
“South Africa have two quality spinners [Imran Tahir and Shamsi],” Head said yesterday.
“We’ve seen Shamsi in the West Indies. So if he plays, we’ve seen him before, so we’ll be pretty confident with that.”