A headache for the South African team management seems to have eased after rookie batsman Janneman Malan (129 off 139) hit his maiden century to pause the game of musical chairs for the opener’s slot for the moment.
Since the start of the year, they have experimented with four players to open the innings alongside skipper Quinton de Kock in white-ball cricket.
Malan’s knock helped the Proteas trump Australia by 6 wickets in the second match of the three-match ODI series.
0-2 down, Australia will now look to avoid a clean sweep in the dead rubber in Potchefstroom on March 7.
Following a similar narrative in both ODIs, the Aussie top-order (1 to 3) provided the required groundwork but the middle-order could not shoulder the run-scoring responsibility, relinquishing the series to the hosts.
In the last two matches, Australia’s run-rate in the Powerplay has been better than South Africa’s. The former’s run-rate was 6.5, while the Proteas run-rate was 4.6.
Australia were left in the lurch only after the departure of their top-order (1 to 3). In the first game, South Africa’s run-rate in the middle phase (overs 11-40) was 5.3, while Australia’s was 4.6. There was a huge difference even in the batting average as the hosts batted at an average of 159 during this phase, while the visitors batted at an average of 34.8. In the second game, the former played at an average of 51.1 (run-rate of 5.1) and the tourists averaged 49.7 (run-rate of 5).
For South Africa, Heinrich Klaasen played excellently by hammering a century in the first game and a half-century in the second game. David Miller also played a magnificent knock by hitting 64 and 36 in both the matches, respectively. JJ Smuts scored 41, his highest score since the start of the year, after featuring in 3 matches.
While South Africa’s middle-order has come to the party when it is required, conversely, Australia’s middle order has flattered to deceive in the series.
Marnus Labuschagne, who has made 40-plus scores in each of his 3 ODI outings before the 2nd ODI, got out for a golden duck in the game. Mitchell Marsh, who perished for a duck in the first match, made 36 in the second. It was his highest score in all formats since October 2018.
Australia need to evaluate their batting in the death overs. They are not doing well at all during that period. In both the matches, their run-rate and average got exacerbated following the collapse of their middle order and the tailenders failed to accelerate.
In the death overs, South Africa’s run-rate in the first game was 8.2, while Australia’s got worsened as they scored 3.9 runs in an over. Similarly, in the second game, the Proteas earned 9.2 runs in an over, while Australia scored 4.9 runs in an over.
While Australia are struggling with the bat in the middle overs, South Africa’s seamers led by Lungi Ngidi have created more problems for the tourists.
They have controlled their line and length and made the batsmen’s job of scoring runs more challenging in the death overs (41 – 50).
The Australian bowlers even bowled different delivery patterns during the death overs. The potent reverse swing was not on view from their side. They just managed to use the reverse swing for 12% of their death overs and conceded 18 runs off 9 balls.
On the contrary, the Proteas displayed their reverse-swing skills using 40% of their balls in the death overs to make it difficult for the opponent batsmen. They gave away just 16 runs in 4.3 overs.
Maybe Australia can learn a trick or two from their opponents in terms of executing reverse swing, especially when it is needed to restrict the opponents’ score in the death overs.
Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne, JJ Smuts, David Miller, Heinrich Klassen, Andile Phehlukwayo, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi
Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey (wk), D’Arcy Short, Mitchell Marsh, Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Jhye Richardson