Faf du Plessis (L) will be looking to inspire his team to a win in their final game at the World. Photo: Lee Smith/Reuters
South Africa’s World Cup campaign draws to a close against Australia at Old Trafford today (2.30pm SA time).
Unfortunately for the Proteas, they cannot progress to the semi-finals, but there are still plenty of personal battles to be settled out on the Old Trafford turf.
Zaahier Adams profiles the most heated head-to-head contests.
Kagiso Rabada v Steve Smith
South Africa’s talisman has endured a quiet World Cup, unable to make the impact that many have come to expect from him.
But as he said in a recent interview, “sometimes things happen in a game and it stirs things inside of you”.
The Aussies have a way of awakening the sleeping giant, and none more so than former captain Smith.
The pair have enjoyed some royal battles, with both pushing - sometimes even crossing - the infamous line.
Smith’s rehabilitation after serving a 12-month ban will not be complete until he comes through this Rabada test unscathed.'
Imran Tahir v David Warner
The ace leg-spinner is playing his last ODI today and is determined to go out on a high.
He will want to get stuck into the action early on and will no doubt be in captain Faf du Plessis’ ear to take the new ball on the biggest turner in England.
Should Du Plessis relent, Tahir will come up against an in-form Warner. The tenacious opener has certainly made up for lost time with a bucketful of runs since returning from his ban in this World Cup.
Warner, who is also facing the Proteas for the first time since #SandpaperGate at Newlands, will be eager to slay his demons.
Equally, Tahir will want nothing more than to go off on another mazy run after picking up Warner for the final time in his career.
Hashim Amla v Mitchell Starc
Although too late for South Africa’s campaign, there were positive signs that “The Mighty#” was rediscovering his form and touch in Durham.
However, that was against the military medium Sri Lankan attack.
Starc, armed with a new ball, is an entirely different proposition. The big Australian left-armer has been the standout bowler in the World Cup for the second time running, already eclipsing his Man of the Tournament performance from four years ago.
He will seriously put Amla’s reflexes to the test with his searing pace and vicious yorkers.
After this game we will know what Amla’s future holds.
Faf du Plessis v Aaron Finch
One is a natural-born captain, the other has had the leadership pushed on him.
But for all Du Plessis’ tactical nous and smooth talking, he would give anything to be in Finch’s shoes right now, especially with the Australians looking forward to a semi-final next week.
Finch certainly is a captain who leads through example with his 504 runs, including two centuries that places him fourth on the list of run-scorers at this World Cup.
But as Du Plessis reminded everyone in the pre-match press conference yesterday, “playing against Australia is certainly, for me, you know, my favourite team to play against”.
And it could once again bring out the best in the Proteas skipper.
It could play a big role in his future, with him also saying: “Right now is possibly not the best time to be making decisions because you are disappointed, but you don’t want to be in this mode when you are making career decisions.”