South Africa will be under pressure to level the series © Getty Images
By Shrikant Shankar
Mar 13, 2014
South Africa face a tough fight to stop Australia from winning another series on their tour of the Rainbow Nation this year. The Proteas lost the fiercely contested three-match Test series 2-1 to the Aussies and are now 1-0 down in the three-match Twenty20 International series with one match to go. The third and final T20I between South Africa and Australia will be held at Centurion.
The first T20I was washed out without a ball being bowled at Port Elizabeth on March 9 due to persistent rain. It was almost the same situation for the second T20I at Durban on March 12. But the umpires and match officials agreed to make the 20-over match into a pintsized seven-over-a-side clash. This was like a cricket game played on the computer — swing your bat at anything and everything.
The toss was crucial and Australia captain George Bailey won the coin flip and as expected, elected to chase. South Africa posted a formidable total of 80 for one, considering this was a seven-over innings. Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis struck a combined four fours and six sixes in their unbeaten 74-run partnership. The team batting second was always the favourite as ideally a side cannot get bowled out in seven overs. It can happen in the PC games, but not in international cricket.
David Warner and Brad Hodge scored 61 runs between themselves as Australia finished at 81 for five with two deliveries to spare. This was a unique match — one that is unlikely to occur again very soon. The third T20I at Centurion is going to be nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the ICC World T20 2014 starting on March 16. Both teams would like to gain some momentum going into a tournament neither has won.
For Australia the incentive is to come away with another series win in their tour of the Rainbow Nation. For South Africa, their motivation will be to stop the Aussie juggernaut from doing so. For the hosts South Africa, they would like to field a XI that would ideally start in their first match in the World T20 against Sri Lanka on March 22. That could mean Kyle Abbot, who is not in the squad for the World T20, might miss out in the third T20I.
They would also like to go with a balanced side and hope players like JP Duminy, David Miller and Albie Morkel get to bat. Dale Steyn’s fitness is an issue, so the fast bowling department might include Aaron Phangiso, Beuran Hendricks, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell. The batting almost takes care of itself with Hashim Amla and de Kock opening the batting followed by du Plessis and Miller. AB de Villiers may also not be fielded to ward off any potential injury.
Farhaan Behardien, Duminy and Morkel should make up the middle and lower-order for South Africa. Australia too would like to field their ideal starting XI that might face Pakistan on March 23 in their first match of the World T20. Most of the team that played in the second T20I should take the field in the third. Aaron Finch and Warner should ideally open the batting with Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell following next. Then comes a power-packed middle and lower-order with Bailey, Hodge and Brad Haddin as the main hitters.
The bowling line-up is a little weak with Dan Christian in the mix, but there are not many options as James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson unavailable with injury issues. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Coulter-Nile make up the remaining of the fast bowling contingent. Australia could also give Cameron White a chance as his hitting abilities and occasional wrist-spin could come into use in Bangladesh. Moises Henriques is not in the squad for the World T20, so, he might miss out at Centurion. Another spinner they could test is James Muirhead.
All in all, this should be a fascinating contest between big teams. The series is on the line, but more than one eye will be on the World T20.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis (c), Farhaan Behardien, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Beuran Hendricks, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott.
Australia: George Bailey (c), Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin (wk), Moises Henriques, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
Time: 16:00 GMT | 21:30 IST
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)