DURBAN – A positive start in Sunday’s opening one-day international against Australia is crucial for the Proteas if the latest additions to the history books are anything to go by.
ODI series between Australia and South Africa have tended to be rather one-sided of late.
The recent norm has been that the team that takes the early ascendancy runs away with the whole thing, leaving the enemy in the dust.
When SA last visited Australia, they were thumped 4-1 back in 2014/15.
That was against a side that would go on to lift the World Cup on home soil later that summer. They were on a roll, and they took a lot of momentum from their dismantling of the Proteas.
Faf du Plessis and his men got a measure of revenge on the Australians two seasons later, when they handed them a 5-0 drubbing in SA.
In that series, everything that the Proteas touched turned to gold.
The match at Kingsmead, for example, was telling. Chasing a mammoth 372 to win, SA looked dead and buried, despite the beautiful batting strip.
Australia were lifted to their total by centuries from David Warner and Steve Smith, strangely enough.
A score of 372 looked like a terrific target, and perhaps a bridge too far when SA slipped to 217/5 after 31.1 overs.
And yet, David Miller grew increasingly bolder with time, as he made perhaps his finest ODI century (118 not out off 79 balls), and found a willing partner in Andile Phehlukwayo, who made an entertaining 42 not out.
Unlike Warner and Smith, those two protagonists are still part of the Proteas – even if they have struggled to rise to those heights since that memorable day two years ago.
That win secured the series for SA, and they went on to claim a historic 5-0 whitewash.
Australia winced as the Proteas whooped next to them, and the sting of that result will still be with the hosts on Sunday.
Australian cricket teams hate to lose, perhaps more than any other sporting side outside the All Blacks.
They used to dominate with a similar ruthlessness and relentlessness, but the game has caught up to them. They are no longer the leading lights in the world, and they might not even hold the fear of old.
They have been telling anyone who will listen that they are “nice blokes”, but you can be sure that the “Super bloke” cap will dissolve away if they get a sniff of victory.
It remains the Australian way, and Du Plessis and his men would not have it any other way.
Thus, come Sunday, how SA start may well determine where they end up in this series.
Given that it is only three matches, instead of the five in each of the last two meetings, the need to hit the ground running is even more pertinent.
* Australia play SA in the first ODI in Perth on Sunday, which will be a day-night match starting at 5.20am SA time.