On the surface of it, Australia must pitch up against the Proteas

Australia Steve Smith says they know what they will need to do to get the better of the Proteas spinners in Lucknow. Photo: R.Satish Babu/AFP

Australia Steve Smith says they know what they will need to do to get the better of the Proteas spinners in Lucknow. Photo: R.Satish Babu/AFP

Published Oct 11, 2023


The Proteas find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

The World Cup may still be in its infancy stages but it’s Australia and not Rob Walter’s team that have all the pressure on their shoulders ahead of the crucial clash in Lucknow tomorrow.

South Africa are fresh off a commanding 102-run victory over Sri Lanka, while the Aussies suffered a six-wicket opening loss to hosts India. Although an Aussie defeat to their great World Cup rivals will not immediately condemn them to the rank and file, the heat within the pressure valve to qualify for the play-offs will significantly increase.

The Aussies were found wanting on a Chennai surface that offered the Indian spinners significant turn with left-armer Ravindra Jadeja delivering a delightful spell of 3/28.

Lucknow's Ekana Stadium is expected to offer the slower bowlers even more assistance, with India’s stand-in captain Hardik Pandya hypercritical of the spin-friendly surface after a T20 International at the same venue earlier this year.

With temperatures set to soar into the mid-30’s, which would dry out the pitch even more, the likelihood of the Proteas fielding both left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj and wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi in their starting XI is a distinct possibility.

Former Australian captain Steve Smith is, however, downplaying the potential spin threat posed by the Proteas and believes they will make the necessary adaptations after a batting collapse that saw the Aussies lose their last nine wickets for just 125 runs.

"We've talked as a group about playing on the surface that we're on," Smith told cricket.com.au.

"We might go to the next place and it might be flat and we might need to score 350. Playing according to what that surface is, I think that's the most important thing to do playing in these conditions.

"In tournament play you don't want to be peaking too early. You obviously want to do enough to make your way to the finals but you want to be playing your best cricket at the end.

"Hopefully, we can turn it around and beat South Africa … they've got a good side, it looks like they're pretty confident at the moment, they're playing well."

In the same manner that the Proteas will be debating the make-up of their playing XI with one of seam duo Gerald Coetzee or Lungi Ngidi dropping out to accommodate the extra spinner, the Aussies also face a few selection posers.

During the recent series against the Proteas in South Africa, which the hosts won 3-2 after trailing 2-0, they relied heavily on their wealth of all-rounders to balance the team.

It is likely that coach Andrew McDonald may stick to that approach, especially with Marcus Stoinis having returned from injury.

"We've got a few options with the way we could go," said Smith.

"Marcus is back on the table potentially, whether we want to play eight batters and a few of the all-rounders. We certainly have a few options, that's for sure."