Australia's Usman Khawaja looks dejected after being bowled out by New Zealand's Trent Boult. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

LONDON – Even the Australians are surprised with South Africa’s capitulation here at the World Cup.

Traditionally, the two teams have been fierce rivals, sharing some legendary battles, particularly at World Cups. The most famous were, of course, here in the United Kingdom when they treated the locals to two epic clashes at Headingley and Edgbaston in 1999.

The 20-year reunion of those matches is set to take place this Saturday when the arch-enemies clash at Old Trafford in Manchester. But unlike back then when everything was on the line, particularly in the Edgbaston semi-final, this weekend’s clash is a dead-rubber.

Australia have already qualified for next week’s play-offs, while the Proteas’ are checking out of this World Cup at the conclusion of this clash. South Africa’s campaign has been terribly disappointing, fetching just two wins from eight starts.

Considering the Proteas defeated Australia in an away bilateral series last October and previously whitewashed them at home 5-0, the Proteas’ struggles are something of a shock to Australian No 3 Usman Khawaja.

“A little bit, yeah,” Khawaja said. “They’re a decent side. When I look at them on paper, they’ve got some experienced players with the bat. Obviously you have (Kagiso) Rabada and Imran Tahir, some really good bowlers.

“It’s just how it is sometimes in tournament play. You lose a couple and you don’t get a roll at the right time. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad team, it’s just how the cookie crumbles.”

South Africa finally showed what they are capable of last Friday in Durham when they trounced Sri Lanka by nine wickets. The bowling unit easily delivered their best performance of the competition by maintaining pressure before striking with regularity.

Equally, senior batsmen Hashim Amla and captain Faf du Plessis both played the types of innings South Africans have been yearning for by sharing an unbroken 175-run partnership for the second wicket.

Khawaja: You’re representing your country, it’s still a game for Australia and still a World Cup game. Photo:Mike Egerton/PA Wire

It is for this reason that Khawaja, and the rest of his Australian teammates, will not be underestimating the Proteas regardless of their doomed fate.

“They’ve got class batsmen in Amla and Du Plessis (who) batted wonderfully (against Sri Lanka),” the classy left-hander said.

“You can never take them too lightly, you can never take any international team too lightly if you do it bites you on the backside.

“People talk about Bangladesh, I don’t think they are the same Bangladesh they were four years ago, I think they are a really good side. And Afghanistan, they’re definitely not the same Afghanistan side from four years ago.

“No international game is (a dead rubber). You’re representing your country, it’s still a game for Australia and still a World Cup game.”

@ZaahierAdams

 

IOL Sport

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