JOHANNESBURG – Australia have played 11 one-day internationals this year, and won once. They’ve lost their last seven ODIs, but, according to wicketkeeper Alex Carey, they remain “really confident still.”
Such is the mentality needed to be a professional sportsperson. There haven’t been many positives to accentuate, so as Carey did yesterday the Australians have reflected on the hard work they’ve been doing believing that it will help deliver them from this extended slump.
“The work we’re doing off the field with ‘JL’ (coach Justin Langer) and the players coming in, we’re doing so much good stuff and it’s going to start to show,” said Carey.
“We’re really confident that it’s going to turn really soon. We don’t feel under pressure internally ... we obviously want to win, that’s what we’re playing for.”
All very nice of course, but a bit like their “elite honesty” the players need to show this stuff on the field in a match.
SA hammered them in Perth last Sunday, and their batting will need to drastically improve against a high-quality Proteas attack.
Carey did point out, quite rightly given Australia’s own vaunted bowling unit, that they are capable of “going through,” the tourists’ batting line-up. That way below par total in the first ODI, never allowed the Australian bowlers the opportunity to properly test the weak area of this SA touring party, its batting.
Only once this year have SA scored over 300 in an ODI, and the new composition of the starting XI has placed an even stronger emphasis on the top six scoring heavily. Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson have foregone the extra all-rounder to add depth to the batting, adding to the pressure for those high up the order.
And in the absence of Hashim Amla and JP Duminy for this series, they are giving opportunities to a couple of rookies to secure spots for the World Cup. So there are areas for the Australians to exploit.
It’s just, as Carey explained, their own batsmen need to find some form quickly to assist the bowling. Ben McDermott - son of former quick bowler Craig - was brought into the squad this week as cover for Shaun Marsh who is still recovering from an abscess on his bum.
Carey said the home team remained optimistic that Marsh would recover in time for tomorrow’s match at the Adelaide Oval with the steadiness he provides crucial in keeping SA’s strong bowling line-up at bay.
“For (Marsh) to come in at No 3 and probably play a bit of an anchor role around some of those top order explosive players ... it’s a little bit of stability up the top, hopefully,” Carey said.
In fact the veteran left-hander has been the one shining light in Australia’s otherwise murky ODI form this year with a pair of hundreds in the series thrashing Australia copped in England.
SA’s preparation will centre around elevating the standards of their own batting. Although no one took the chase by the scruff of the neck in Perth there were good signs from Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram that they were starting to find some good form.