Harare - Locals are referring to the Harare Sports Club as “the slaughterhouse”, after South Africa and Zimbabwe both beat Australia there in one-day internationals in the last week.
Australia, who started the triangular series last week ranked No 1 in the world, have dropped to fourth, and face another tough assignment against the Proteas on Tuesday. It is not often that South Africa are favourites heading into any clash against Australia, but they certainly are the form team of this tournament.
Considering their opposition’s troubles, with their injured captain Michael Clarke headed home, and a few strange selections on this tour, AB de Villiers’s men should be quietly confident.
Australia, though, could still reach the final, and Clarke did issue a warning before flying off. “I still think we have a fantastic squad and I’m confident we can still win this series but we’ve got to play obviously a lot better than that,” he said after the Zimbabwe debacle.
There’s little doubt that Australia will be better on Tuesday, simply because if they don’t improve, their qualification for Saturday’s final will no longer be in their own hands. Considering the Aussies’ demeanour off the field thus far, in comparison to the South Africans, who have embraced some of the off-field activities to be enjoyed in this part of the world, there is a feeling that the rest of the troops would like to follow their injured skipper sooner rather than later.
But the Proteas captain was focusing only on his team’s preparations which have been hampered a bit due to his stomach ailments, and more seriously, the injuries to JP Duminy and Morne Morkel.
“I’m better, I just ordered snails at a restaurant in Harare and I would recommend that people just stay away from snails,” De Villiers chuckled. “Morne and JP are both going for scans this afternoon (Monday) just to make sure it’s nothing serious… if it is quite serious we have to manage them as best as possible.
“But for now they’ve passed a fitness test so far and they look good, they’re bowling in the nets, JP’s hitting a few balls. So, it’s looking good but we’re just going to make sure with the scans and then we’ll have a look in the morning (as to) how they feel.”
South Africa are yet to make a call on their final XI and are only likely to do so after having another look at the pitch this morning. The dilemma facing De Villiers and coach Russell Domingo is whether to select Aaron Phangiso as a second spinner in addition to Imran Tahir against the Aussies, or to stick with the fourth seamer.
Thus far in the tri-series, neither Wayne Parnell nor Kyle Abbott has fully taken advantage of their opportunity. And, given Australia’s woes against spin bowling, which was ruthlessly exposed against Zimbabwe, the right choice could be the slow left-armer from Ga-Rankuwa.
“I think it’s a possibility, it (the pitch) looks like it’s been used before. It looks quite tired in a way and looks like it could be a bit two-paced, so that might bring the seamers into play as well,” De Villiers said.
“So we’re just going to try and assess (the pitch) as quickly as possible and obviously pick a team from what we see there,” the skipper explained.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso/Wayne Parnell.
Australia: Aaron Finch, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Marsh, George Bailey (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon