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Beware a wounded Aussie ... Proteas expect Australia to come out firing in Lucknow

Proteas batter David Miller (L) and JP Duminy stretch during a training session ahead

FILE - The Proteas know they are coming up against a dangeroud Australia side after their loss to hosts India at the Cricket World Cup. Photo: Indrani Mukherjee/AFP

Published Oct 11, 2023


Beware the wounded Aussie.

That’s JP Duminy’s message to the Proteas ahead of their ICC World Cup showdown against five-time champions Australia in Lucknow tomorrow.

Pat Cummins’ team went down by six wickets to hosts India in their tournament opener and now face an in-form Proteas team looking to exert even more pressure on the Aussies.

Proteas batting coach Duminy, who had his fair share of tussles against the canary yellow and green during his career, believes this is when they are at their most dangerous.

“Having had personal experiences against them when their backs are against the wall,” Duminy said yesterday, “they are going to come out firing. Knowing their personality, it doesn’t take them away from their style of play, they are going to come harder.

“So, what is our response to that? “We try to stay in our bubble. It’s not necessarily fighting fire with fire.

“What is the identity of the South African team?

“We are a resilient country, we stick together in tough times. So, we look each other in the eye, and whatever gets thrown at us, I put up my hand and say that I’m going to do this for my mate.”

The Proteas certainly don't have anything to fear though. Temba Bavuma’s men are fresh off a 3-2 series win over the Aussies on home soil.

Equally, the Proteas have held the upper hand in ODI encounters between these two great rivals since

2016 - having won 14 out of their last 17 meetings - including the last World Cup encounter in Manchester four years ago.

“Yes, there is confidence coming out of a series winning 3-2 when we were 2-0 down. For the most part, a lot of those players were part of that series,” Duminy said.

“But yes, there are certain threats that are going to be posed, namely these conditions, and one or two players that never played in that series. We will certainly look at that.”

A successful World Cup campaign, particularly in India due the vast travel distance between venues, often relies on a team’s adaptability to the contrasting conditions at each stadium.

Delhi’s Arjun Jaitley’s surface proved to be as flat as a chapati that allowed the Proteas’ batters to tuck into a record-breaking run feast. Lucknow's Ekana Stadium is unlikely to be equally hospitable having developed a reputation for assisting the spinners.

This could help negate the fast bowling threat the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and captain Cummins pose to the Proteas toporder.

But that’s not the only concern. The Proteas batters have struggled to maintain the momentum through previous World Cup campaigns, often coming crashing down after climbing a peak in a previous match.

This was particularly evident back in 2015 when the Proteas passed

400 in two matches against the West Indies and Ireland but only managed to follow it up with meagre totals in the region of 200 against both India and Pakistan.

Duminy feels the Class of ‘23 have proven already that they cannot be grouped with their predecessors.

“This is a different batting group. There has been a trend of real consistency.

“As a batting coach, I sit here not worried about a potential dip after a high.

“There is a real hunger and determination within this group to really lead particularly around the batting group.

“It has been drilled into these guys to focus on world-class preparation and process. If we focus on that, we give ourselves the best chance.

“If we have a good understanding and assessment of conditions, we understand our options, and operating in that execution space, then we are heading in the right direction.

“If we think about where we’ve gone wrong in the past, including myself, is when we’ve been under pressure we haven’t made good decisions. So, can we be in a better position to make sound decisions under pressure?

“That’s not only going to put us in a better position to beat Australia in a World Cup match but any team we come up against,” he concluded.