South Africa lead series 3-0   Getty Images
South Africa lead series 3-0 Getty Images

Australia will not begin the fourth ODI of the 5-match series against South Africa on a high. The series has already been lost, and all Australia can do from here is to borrow a much-used clich from commentators and writers play for pride . Australia are, after all, the defending world champions, and a better show was expected of them in South Africa, a country where they have traditionally done well over years. However, Australia will be low in confidence during Sunday s match at Port Elizabeth after their inability to defend a target as high as 372 at Durban. Whether Australia can put the ghosts of Kingsmead behind them and come out all guns blazing at South Africa will be something worth a watch, for rarely in their past have Australia gone down without a fight. Full Cricket Scorecard, South Africa Vs Australia, 4th ODI

To be fair to the Australians, South Africa did pull off a chase-in-a-decade at Durban. There were doubts even after David Warner and Steven Smith took them to 371 for 6 (despite Imran Tahir s 2 for 54 from 10 overs), mostly because no target is too big in the T20 era. South Africa seemed to be cruising once Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla got them to a breezy start. However, South Africa kept losing wickets at regular intervals, and for a while it seemed Australia would be able to hold them back. But an outrageous 79-ball unbeaten 118 from David Miller, supported ably by young Andile Phehlukwayo, saw South Africa home with 4 balls to spare. One might argue that it is almost impossible to contain Miller once he gets going on a flat track, but it must be mentioned here that the young Australian seam attack looked far from penetrative and imaginative.

With Mitchell Starc injured and Josh Hazlewood rested, the Australian bowling attack looks surprisingly thin, with no bowler going at anything cheaper than 6.96 an over. Australia gave out ODI caps to three fast-medium bowlers Daniel Worrall, Chris Tremain, and Joe Mennie in the ongoing tour; all of them have gone for over 7 runs an over. Scott Boland has gone for runs as well. Though Adam Zampa, John Hastings, and Mitchell Marsh have bowled well in patches, none of them has been consistent throughout the series. In short, bowling has let Australia down every time: South Africa s run rates in the 3 matches read 8.11, 7.22, and 7.54. Resting key bowlers in October, when the Australian season has not even taken off, was perhaps a blunder. But then, Smith himself had not played the full ODI series in Sri Lanka. ALSO READ: SA vs AUS: The resurgence of Miller

The numbers certainly do not make great reading. It is not that Australia have batted brilliantly either on these flat tracks: though the high-scoring matches have allowed batsmen to after the bowling, they have thrown away wickets cheaply. As a result, Warner is the only Australian in a series involving gargantuan scores to have averaged over 45 and have crossed the fifty-mark twice. Even the usually consistent George Bailey has delivered only once. Australia desperately need someone to deliver if the top four fail: unfortunately, they have not been unable to find that man.

Australia may want to consider Usman Khawaja, who batted calmly during their cakewalk of a chase against Ireland last week. It might not do miracles, but things can barely go worse for Australia from here. They do not have Shaun Marsh either, who is back home nursing a fractured finger. As for bowling, they do not really have a lot of options after James Faulkner was ruled out of the series with a calf strain.

Despite the absence of AB de Villiers, South Africa have faced no such problems. In fact, they won the first 2 matches without Hashim Amla as well. Their batsmen have delivered almost every time, and have slammed match-winning hundreds de Kock at Centurion, Faf du Plessis at Johannesburg, and Miller at Durban. Tahir s series economy rate reads a magnificent 4.85, while Wayne Parnell s 4 wickets have come at 24. Rilee Rossouw has been among runs as well, while JP Duminy has chipped in with both bat and ball the way he has been doing over years.

The surprise package for South Africa, however, has been Phehlukwayo, the Will Smith doppelganger from Natal. In the third match in his hometown, Phehlukwayo walked out at 265 for 6. At that stage South Africa needed another 107 from 74 balls. Phehlukwayo hung around, letting Miller do the scoring before joining in the fun, and finished with an unbeaten 39-ball 42. Even if one takes that away, his 7 series wickets have come at an excellent 23, and his economy rate of 6.52 has been bettered by Tahir and Parnell. His finest performance with ball came at Centurion, where his 4 for 44 from 10 overs included the wickets of Aaron Finch, Smith, and Mitchell Marsh.

The South African bowling has generally been tight, Dale Steyn being, rather surprisingly, the only letdown. Amla will look to make his comeback count with a big score, while Rossouw is almost certainly not happy after having thrown away two opportunities at hundreds. Parnell s rib injury has opened up options for Kyle Abbott. South Africa may also consider resting Steyn for one of their left-arm slow bowlers finger-spinner Aaron Phangiso and Chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi. They will, however, want to give all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius another opportunity. Kagiso Rabada, of course, should ideally play on. It is perhaps time, however, to look beyond Farhaan Behardien.

Squads:

South Africa: Faf du Plessis(c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Australia: Steven Smith (c), Matthew Wade (wk), Aaron Finch, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, George Bailey, Travis Head, Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, John Hastings, Mitchell Marsh, Joe Mennie, Chris Tremain, Daniel Worrall.