South Afica celebrate the dismissal of Steven Smith (Getty Images)
South Africa lead five-match series by 2-0 Getty Images

South Africa will locks horns with Australia in the third of the five match One-Day International (ODI) series at Durban. All the same, it is a do-or-die situation for Steven Smith’s men, as the rampaging hosts lead the series 2-0, winning both the contests with ease. Australia, who came on the back of a 4-1 series win against Sri Lanka in their den, have been out of sorts in the ongoing series so far. South Africa, on the other hand, will look to continue with the winning momentum and seal the series 3-0. Be it batting, bowling or fielding, they seem to cover all bases. South Africa played the same starting XI and are unlikely to tinker with it. Let’s walk through their playing XI for the third encounter: Live cricket scorecard: South Africa vs Australia, 3rd ODI

Top order: There’s no stopping Quinton de Kock when he is on song especially in home conditions. In the series opener, he fired on all cylinders and plundered 178 runs. The commendable aspect was he took only 113 balls, including 16 fours and 11 sixes. He, as a matter of fact, tore apart Australia’s bowling unit. To remind you, he did it while chasing. South Africa chased down 295 with 82 balls remaining. Such was the dominance of de Kock!

To partner him comes Rilee Rossouw. He scored two consecutive half-centuries (63 and 75). Agreed that the tracks have been batsman-friendly, but Rossouw’s execution kept his team ahead in the race, especially in the second match when de Kock fell for 22. It was Rossouw who took charge and maintained the momentum. Also read: Faf du Plessis speaks out about Alma’s absence

Then comes the captain Faf du Plessis at No. 3. With de Kock scoring the bulk of runs in the first match, du Plessis took a backseat. However, du Plessis, for the belligerence he is known for, smashed a 93-ball 111. It seems captaincy has helped him find his lost paradise, as both fortunes and forms have changed.

With AB de Villiers out due to injury, the burden of anchoring the innings lies on him. So far, he has managed to do that with distinction. In addition, Hashim Amla’s absence had put the South Africans in a spot of bother. However, the way the top order has batted so far, it will be an uphill task for the Australians to get the better of them.

In addition, the destructive trio will play a key role in the third ODI if they are to seal the series.

Middle-order: The hosts need not worry if they lose their top order early, for their middle-order is an amalgamation of aggression and calm. It features JP Duminy, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien. These three need no introduction.

Duminy threw away his wicket in the first match but made amends in the next. He came to bat when South Africa were 146 for 2, with almost half the overs bowled. And that’s when the middle order need to click as a cohesive unit. Also read: Faf du Plessis challenges to bring back Mitchell Starc

Duminy, like he does in pressure situations, kept his wicket intact and amassed runs at a brisk rate. Along with du Plessis, he added 150 off 103 balls for the third wicket. He took only 58 deliveries to score 82 runs, studded with 10 fours and 3 sixes.

The Durban track is likely to be a featherbed for the batsmen, something Duminy thrives on.

The next batsmen to take the crease is Miller. In 85 matches, he has churned out 1,869 runs at 34.61. To add to the fire, his strike rate reads 100.3. Given the average and strike rate, he adds an advantage for the middle-order. However, he is armed with good technique as well. He can, in fact, play according to the situation. Even if the top-order fails, he can anchor the innings and take the team out of woods. Also read: Waqar wants Pollard to be axed

On the other hand, Behardien is a handy batsman down the order. In 50 matches, he averages 30.19, which is decent for a lower-middle-order batsman. Moreover, he can roll over his arm if required.

Bowling: Despite the tracks offering very little to the bowlers, the South African bowling unit has managed to take 19 wickets in two matches. Such has been their stellar performance!

South Africa take no half measures. They have a five-bowler attack in Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo and Imran Tahir. There’s bounce on South African tracks; hence, four pacers and a spinner.

The pick of the bowler for the home team has been the newcomer Phehlukwayo. Overall, he has taken 6 wickets. Meanwhile, Parnell has taken 4. All the same, the collective bowling effort was commendable.

All in all, South Africa are likely to thrash the mighty yet fallible Australians.

Likely XI: Quiton de Kock (wk), Rilee Rossouw, Faf du Plessis, Faf du Plessis (c), JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardein, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Kagiso Rabada

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)