MANCHESTER – South Africa will once again try and make up for their earlier disasters when they play Australia in their final Cricket World Cup group match at Old Trafford, Manchester, on Saturday.
The Proteas, plagued by injuries and the poor form of their key players, have had a dismal time since arriving in the United Kingdom for the tournament.
The four-time semifinalists find themselves at the eighth position in the points table with two wins from eight matches, but they will feel much better if they can end the World Cup with a flourish.
Chris Morris, Rassie van der Dussen and Imran Tahir were the only notable performers for a major part of the season. In the nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka, however, both skipper Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla were at their fluent best.
The World Cup rivalry between these two sides is defined by the historic semifinal clash of the 1999 edition where Australia inched past the Proteas after a thrilling tied finish at Edgbaston.
South Africa have had the upper hand in recent times winning eight of the last 10 completed matches. Recent form and on-paper team combinations however, suggest otherwise.
Australia have been a dominant force in this World Cup, winning seven of the eight matches so far.
While the openers have been providing good starts consistently, Alex Carey, the wicketkeeper batsman, has shown his class with a match-winning performance in the last game against New Zealand.
The bowling unit, led by the ever reliable Mitchell Starc, has been further bolstered by the inclusion of Nathan Lyon.
Victory against South Africa will ensure that they head into the semifinals as the top-ranked team in the points table.
Middle-order batsman Shaun Marsh might have been ruled out of the tournament with a fractured forearm, but the Aaron Finch-led side has found an able replacement in Peter Handscomb, who had played a crucial role in the series win against India earlier this year.
A key player for the Aussies is David Warner. The Australian opener has been in a rich vein of form, having scored 516 runs from eight innings in this World Cup.
Warner, who scored a stroke-filled 173 in his last outing against South Africa in October 2016, will look to produce a similar performance to carry his glorious run into the knockouts.
For South Africa skipper Du Plessis showed his class with a fluent 96 not out in his last outing against Sri Lanka.
He averages 51.58 against Australia with four centuries to his name, and will eye another big score against one of his favourite opponents, to power his team to a victory in their last game of the 2019 World Cup.
A narrow band of patchy rain and drizzle is expected early in the morning which will clear away by the time the game starts in the afternoon. Cloud cover is expected for a major part of the day.
Teams batting first have won each of the four games played at Old Trafford in this World Cup so far.
African News Agency (ANA)