Nevermind the opposition, South Africa beat themselves in the second One-Day International at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, with the Proteas’ batting failing once more in a seven-run defeat.
It is the area that concerns skipper Faf du Plessis most and when asked to chase what was a below-par total of 232 for victory, the batting unit succumbed in alarming fashion to end on 224/9 in their 50 overs.
In the process, the Australians snapped a seven-game losing streak, and while there was relief and joy in their camp, deep down they will know they were gifted a win which keeps the series alive heading into the final match in Hobart on Sunday.
There will be plenty of introspection in the South African camp in the next 48 hours as the players contemplate a series of soft dismissals which handed an Australian side lacking confidence a much-needed win.
Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and Dwaine Pretorius were all guilty of gifting their wickets to the Australians, three of them with poor shots, and in Markram’s case, another terrible piece of running which saw him short of his ground after he’d made 19.
Du Plessis (47) and David Miller (51) then added 74 for the fifth wicket after South Africa had slumped to 68/4, but when Du Plessis played on to his stumps off Pat Cummins in the 30th over, it left Miller with a burden that was too heavy for him and the Proteas’ lengthy tail to bear.
All-rounder Marcus Stoinis was superb, picking up 3/35 in 10 overs, while front-line quicks; Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all weighed in with wickets.
While some may point to the lack of depth with the batting, the SA top-order need to play far more responsibly than they did on Friday.
Earlier, the Proteas continued with their policy of rotation, dropping Andile Phehlukwayo, who took three wickets in the opening game of the series, and replacing him with Pretorius.
But the Highveld Lions all-rounder didn’t let the side down - with the ball - matching Phehlukwayo’s haul of three wickets, thereby keeping a tight rein on the Australia scoring rate.
Pretorius acknowledged before the tour that he was surprised to be in the squad - the result mainly of Wiaan Mulder having to undergo surgery - but having got the opportunity, he did his chances of a World Cup call-up no harm with his efforts on Friday.
Du Plessis had won the toss and chose to field again, feeling that his strong attack could re-open the wounds inflicted in Perth.
Howeverm conditions weren’t as bowler-friendly at the Adelaide Oval - there was less swing, and the bounce wasn’t as disconcerting.
Nevertheless, despite building themselves a good platform after the early loss of Travis Head, Australia’s innings never got going, the result mainly of their own looseness, which is probably down to the lack of confidence in the side.
Three batsmen, captain Aaron Finch, Chris Lynn and Alex Carey, got past 40, but one of Finch or Lynn should have gone on to make something more substantial.
Finch did neither one thing nor the other, and chopped a delivery from Pretorius on to his stumps after scoring 41.
Lynn then seemed to take control of the innings, and in the 27th over got stuck into Kagiso Rabada, hitting him for a six and then three consecutive fours.
Rabada, like any good quick, didn’t appreciate that ,and fired in a bouncer that Lynn gloved behind after scoring 44.
Australia lost 5/71 thereafter as South Africa smashed through the middle- and lower-order, but as in Perth last Sunday, they allowed the last-wicket pair to give the hosts a lift, giving them a respectable total, but not one that should’ve been a winning one.
Pretorius’ 3/32 in 10 overs - that included 38 dot balls - will see his name firmly entered into the list of candidates for the all-rounder’s spot for the World Cup.
Rabada was the top wicket-taker with 4/54, while Dale Steyn produced another high quality performance, picking up 2/31 in his 10 overs.
South Africa 224/9
Australia won by 7 runs