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Zimbabwe Tri Series, 5th Match – South Africa v Australia, Harare – Preview

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Last Updated on 10 years by Charbel Coorey

Thought this match would be a dress rehearsal for the final? South Africa, Australia and Zimbabwe in a triangular tournament – two powerhouses of world cricket along with a side fighting towards the bottom of the world rankings, you would’ve been forgiven for thinking so before Australia’s last game against Zimbabwe. Now, Australia face a near must-win situation if they are to progress through to the final.

In my opinion, the hope for Australia lies in the fact that South Africa too struggled against Zimbabwe and had to fight for their victory in the end. That means that South Africa aren’t invincible and are certainly beatable, especially in the ODI format where they are as not as strong as they are as a Test unit. At the halfway point of the Zim v SA match when South Africa were left to defend 232 after being 0/142, Zimbabwe were right in the match. South Africa have quite a bit of improvement left in them and they’ll look to this game to improve their performance with the final ever closer.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann and captain Michael Clarke expressed their disappointment at the team’s performance in their shock last start defeat to the hosts. They lacked confidence with the bat and need to play spin far better than they did on Sunday. It doesn’t take a genius to know South Africa will look to test the Aussie batsmen with their spinners – mainly Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso (if selected) and JP Duminy. Despite the difficult pitch, some of the Aussie dismissals against the Zimbabweans were pretty poor. I recount two dismissals in particular. The first was Phillip Hughes caught at first slip. With the ball turning quite substantially, is the sweep shot from outside off against Prosper Utseya, spinning the ball away from the bat, a safe shot? Certainly not. Batting on that surface required discipline and making sure you’re playing high percentage shots. Phillip Hughes didn’t do that and he’ll be looking for a good score against the South Africans. That’s going to require discipline and good shot selection. The second dismissal that disappointed me was George Bailey who was bowled by left arm spinner Sean Williams. Usually when the ball rips past the bat from around the wicket, the batsman could consider himself unlucky that he got an unplayable ball. However, George Bailey brought it on himself as he exposed all three stumps! That’s ludicrous against a sharply turning ball. He wasn’t bowled with the ball hitting the top of off, but the top of middle. These two dismissals show that the Aussies certainly have some thinking to do.

For South Africa, not all is smooth sailing for them either after they collapsed badly against the Zimbabweans. They wouldn’t want a repeat of that and they’ll be boosted by the expected return of superstar AB De Villiers. What a player he is and he’ll give the South African side that extra bit of quality. However, for me, the batsman to watch for SA is David Miller. He has loads of potential but hasn’t had much of a chance to show his worth on tour so far. His best chance was in SA’s last match but was dismissed first ball to hand Prosper Utseya his hat trick. He’ll be hoping to get going here.

For Australia, there are two batsmen that I’m looking forward to see play. George Bailey’s 50+ ODI average is no fluke – he is quality in this format. This is a chance to step up when Australia need him and play a skipper’s knock in Michael Clarke’s absence. The second is Steve Smith who was inexplicably left out of Australia’s side in their loss to Zimbabwe. He’ll surely come into the side (if he doesn’t, then surely something’s wrong somewhere) and will look to show his all-round capabilities. If he does, Australia will enjoy the tiring conditions much more.

In terms of the bowling, Nathan Lyon v Imran Tahir is a battle that will be interesting to watch. Whichever one of these two bowlers comes out on top in this battle might very well determine which team finishes on top. Both have a significant role to play in this match.

Prediction: A really tough one to call. There’s no definitive prediction to make for a match like this as both sides are pretty strong. However, I’ll go with Australia to win in a tight one simply because they have more to play for. South Africa want to win this game. Australia need to win this one. Here’s hoping for an improved Australian performance.

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: https://www.youtube.com/@cricblogtv For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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