Faf du Plessis has been in the form of his life, and is a likely contender for the ‘Man-of-the-series’ award © Getty Images
By Amit Banerjee
Sep 5, 2014
The triangular series contested between Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia has nearly reached its conclusion, with the latter two set to fight for the trophy in the series finale on Saturday (September 6) at Harare.
For the Proteas, the main glimmer of hope is the man known as Faf du Plessis, who has been in tremendous form in this tournament and will hardly surprise anyone if he bags the ‘Man-of-the-Series’ award. With three centuries in four innings in this tournament at an average of 92, he is easily leagues ahead of all the other batsmen in the tournament so far and will be expected to send the Australian bowlers all over the park in the final match. Among the bowlers, the eyes will be on Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to spew their venom. JP Duminy, who was the pick among the bowlers in the sixth game, will be expected to come in handy with his off spin along with Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso.
Australia on the other hand will be without the leadership of Michael Clarke, who had to fly back to Australia due to a hamstring injury. Stand-in skipper George Bailey will look to lead the team with example in the final and maintain a positive spirit in the camp. Australia’s key strength lies in their never-say-die spirit, which has seen them recover from the worst of jolts to take them to the finish line. While the likes of Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh have dazzled with the bat so far and should be able to tackle Steyn and co. in the final if they are to post a decent total, Mitchell Johnson will be expected to express the fire with the ball which he has displayed in the recent past.
The points table at the end of the sixth game between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the same venue as the final was firmly in favour of the former. South Africa emerged the toppers in the round-robin stage, finishing with 15 points with three wins out of four games. Australia and Zimbabwe were second and third respectively with 10 and four points respectively.
Though South Africa appear statistically more dominant, they will be fully aware of Australia’s prowess, especially in the final stages of a tournament. While they started the tournament on a strong note with a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Australia, they did not perform to their potential during the next two. They were bundled out for a mere total of 231 during their second game against Zimbabwe, though they managed to win by 61 runs. They were outperformed by the Aussies in their second encounter of the series, where they were dismissed for a total of 220 while chasing a target of 283. They managed to put their act together for the last game against Zimbabwe, where the lower-order smashed 93 runs of the final ten overs. The bowlers then rallied together to skittle the hosts out for 208.
The Australians on the other hand have had a mixed journey so far. While they began the tournament on a strong note with a 198-run win over the hosts, they went on to lose the next couple of games in dramatic fashion. They failed to defend a 328-run target against the South Africans, who chased it down with seven wickets and a plenty of balls to spare. They were in for a bigger shock when they lost to Zimbabwe for the first time in 31 years. A disciplined Zimbabwean performance reduced them to 209 for nine, which they failed to defend when the latter chased the total down with three wickets to spare. They managed to save some face in their final encounter of the group stage when they fired all guns from all departments to beat South Africa by 62 runs.
Both teams have had a pattern in the past in such tournament. The South Africans have had a history of ‘choking’, where they have performed consistently in the pre-final stages of a tournament and went on to lose in the knockout stage. The Australians are known to be great fighters and have shown great fightbacks in the many major tournaments in the past.
Complete coverage of Zimbabwe Tri-Series 2014
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)