Australia performed to expectations in their opening match with a crushing six-wicket win over West Indies; South Africa most certainly did not, as they were bundled out for 188 in their four wicket loss to the hosts.
The deflating nature of the loss to West Indies can only compound the pressure South Africa are feeling as they try to right the wrongs of their poorest domestic summer in recent memory, and in Steven Smith’s team they are not likely to be gifted many opportunities to regain their equilibrium. AB de Villiers’ men are going to have to lift their game substantially.
It is doubtlessly true that the Australians learned a lot from being able to watch the opening match rather than participate in it. They bowled first as West Indies did in the first match, and found in the afternoon air a little early assistance for the pacers before the spin bowlers ripped through the hosts. Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa proved a potent slow-bowling duo with a little help from Glenn Maxwell, and a few of the shots played by West Indies’ batsmen were redolent of nothing so much as those offered by South Africa when Sunil Narine spun a similar web.
While this is undoubtedly a South African side in decline, they still possess enough players of class to challenge Australia. One of these men may be Morne Morkel, curiously omitted from game one, but now fresh for the task of cutting through the Australian top order – a strength that can be undermined by exposing the less consistent operators batting beneath them. Similarly, de Villiers and Hashim Amla are players of a standard capable of taking the fight to Lyon and Zampa, even if the pitch will be in the bowlers’ favour.
The same Providence Stadium pitch as used for Sunday’s match between Australia and West Indies should only be slower and lower this time around.
Australia Squad : Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
South Africa Squad : AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi.