Spinners Shamsi, Maharaj could help SA tie up Aussies in Bloemfontein
CAPE TOWN – South Africa have another opportunity to win a series in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
The only concern is that they have been in this position three times before this season only to squander the chance.
Australia will certainly be smarting after the 74-run defeat in Paarl over the weekend and will be eager to level the series to set up a decider in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
For South Africa to prevent this situation and end a dismal home summer on at least a positive note, plenty will rest on their two spin bowlers Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj.
The spin duo were excellent at Boland Park with the recalled Maharaj operating in the Powerplay before Shamsi took control of the middle overs.
With the Manguang Oval boasting arguably the biggest boundaries in the country and a surface that should suit the slow bowlers, South Africa will no doubt look at Shamsi and Maharaj to tie up the Aussies once again.
The only visiting batsman to have some sort of a plan against the tweakers was top-scorer Steve Smith.
“A pretty big focus for us for a while (has been) the spin in the middle overs and being able to play the right way,” Smith said. “(But) it wasn't an easy wicket to play spin on.
“Maharaj bowled some balls that really gripped and spun and a couple skidded on. It actually felt somewhat like an Indian wicket or a subcontinent wicket, so it was quite difficult to time the ball.
“Shamsi did what he was doing through the T20s … bowling that really straight line and almost just letting us to hit to the leg side,” Smith added. “I don't think we barely hit a ball on the off side. (He) just bowled really straight, blocked out that one side and (was) patient.
“He's not trying to get you out, he's just trying to stem the flow and make you make a mistake. To be fair, he did it pretty well in the T20s and did it well again (in Paarl).”
It certainly seems that the Proteas have settled on a gameplan to counter the dangerous Aussie batting unit.
Equally, the home team's own batsmen have found some form to assist captain Quinton de Kock.
Heinrich Klaasen played beautifully in Paarl for his maiden ODI century, while David Miller rediscovered his scoring touch with a timely half-century. Debutant Kyle Verreynne also impressed with a solid 48, which bodes well for the future.
South Africa have a decent record in the “City of Roses” having only lost four out of the 17 ODI's they have played there.
The only concern is that two of those have been to Australia, with the Proteas only winning once in the matches played between these two teams in Bloemfontein.
De Kock's team will no doubt want to improve that record on Wednesday to finally have something to celebrate something worthwhile this summer.
Squads for Bloemfontein
Proteas: Quinton de Kock (captain), Temba Bavuma, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Beuran Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Janneman Malan, Jon-Jon Smuts, Anrich Nortje, Lutho Sipamla, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Verreynne.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (vc), Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
Start: 1:30pm TV: SS2 and Sabc3@ZaahierAdams