Harare – Australia must overcome the embarrassment of losing to Zimbabwe and the departure of captain Michael Clarke to injury when they take on South Africa in the fifth match of a one-day triangular series on Tuesday.
Clarke's hamstring problem flared up during his innings of 68 against Zimbabwe on Sunday, and insult was added to injury when the hosts chased down a target of 210 to pull off one of the great upsets in cricket's history.
Clarke flew out of Zimbabwe on Monday to return home for treatment, leaving Australia with a squad of just 13 to pick from for Tuesday's encounter.
The three-wicket defeat to Zimbabwe saw Australia slip from No. 1 to No. 3 on the ICC's one-day rankings table, below India and South Africa.
It was just the second time ever that Australia had lost to the No. 10-ranked nation, following Zimbabwe's win at Trent Bridge in the 1983 World Cup.
“There's probably not enough expletives in the English language at the moment for the way I'm feeling,” coach Darren Lehmann said.
“We weren't good enough, and we've got to learn really quickly because teams are going to see that and they're going to react to it.”
Australia's problems centred largely around spin, with Zimbabwe's four spinners taking a combined six for 117 in 36 overs as the tourists were limited to 209 for nine.
With Clarke able to bowl just one over in the Zimbabwean innings and Steve Smith not selected, Nathan Lyon was the only spin bowler who posed any threat for Australia.
Although Smith is guaranteed to come back in for the game against South Africa, and strike bowler Mitchell Johnson will also return, Australia will face many of the same challenges against the Proteas if another dry wicket is produced by the Harare Sports Club groundsmen - as seems likely.
Legspinner Imran Tahir took two for 45 as South Africa beat Australia by seven wickets in the first round of matches, and he should have the support of left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso on Tuesday.
“Immi (Tahir) and I have come a long way,” Phangiso said. “We are always planning when training in the nets; talking about what we both want to achieve with our game plans.
“I know I have been labelled more as a containing bowler and Immi as more of a wicket-taker. Those are some of the things we discuss; if I can keep it tight at one end he is allowed to capitalise with his variations from the other end.”
Should Australia fail to beat South Africa, it would leave the door open for Zimbabwe to qualify for Saturday's final when they take on South Africa on Thursday in the last game of the round robin stage.
South Africa currently lead the table with nine points from two games, while Australia and Zimbabwe have played three games and have five and four points respectively.
South Africa will be bolstered by the return of AB de Villiers, who scored 136 not out against Australia but missed the subsequent victory over Zimbabwe due to illness, for Tuesday's game.
Fast bowler Morne Morkel is also expected to return after sitting out the Zimbabwe game.– AFP