To say things didn’t go South Africa’s way in the first T20I against Australia would be an understatement of epic proportions. Chasing a target of 197, the Proteas were bowled out for just 89 which is their lowest T20I total ever.
On the other hand, Australia are in the middle of a dream run in T20 Internationals. They have now won eight consecutive completed T20Is, with their last defeat in the format coming way back in November 2018. Heading into the T20 World Cup which will be held Down Under, this run of results is definitely very encouraging for Aaron Finch’s side.
The Australians seem to have most boxes ticked. When it comes to their batting, they’ve got a superb opening pair in Finch and David Warner and have the ever-reliable Steve Smith at number three. In the middle order, they have the likes of Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey who are all more than handy batsmen, with Glenn Maxwell – who is missing this series due to injury – also likely to be a part of their plans for the T20 World Cup.
Since 2019, Australia – as a team – have a batting average of 52.6 which is almost 20 better than second-best team India (33.1) among the top 10 sides in T20Is. Only England (9.5) have scored at a higher run-rate than Australia (9.1) during this period, but it must be noted that Eoin Morgan’s side have been losing a wicket every 19.2 deliveries while same number for the Australians is 34.5.
Even Australia’s bowling has been well ahead of other teams. Since the start of 2019, Australia’s bowlers have taken a wicket for every 17.3 runs they’ve conceded in T20Is which is the best average among the top 10 teams. They create wicket-taking opportunities by bowling economically. Their economy rate of 6.7 during this period is 0.9 better than the next best team (Afghanistan), which accounts for 18 runs over 20 overs – a significant number in this format.
On Friday, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Marsh were expected to play the role of a fifth bowler in the team. But the latter was not required to bowl at all as Agar took a hat-trick and registered the best bowling figures (5/24) by an Australian in men’s T20Is. The 26-year-old also scored a quick 20 towards the end of Australia’s innings and seems to have made the number seven slot in the team his own for now.
On the other hand, South Africa have now lost three successive T20Is. While their bowlers did well to fight back during the middle overs in the first T20I after the 80-run partnership between Finch and Smith, they will definitely need to improve on their lines and lengths. On Friday, only 10.8% of the deliveries bowled by South Africa were on course to hit the stumps, their lowest percentage in a T20I since March 2016. Meanwhile, the number for Australia’s bowlers in the match was 22.9%. Hence, it’s imperative for the home team to get their lines and lengths right in the second T20I.
Kagiso Rabada didn’t have the best game at The Wanderers as he conceded 45 runs from his three overs. But you’d expect a bowler of his class to bounce back quickly. With Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Tabrazi Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo, South Africa have a top-quality bowling attack. And the hosts will be banking on them to put more pressure on the Australian batsmen.
While the bowling could have done better, there’s little doubt that their poor batting display was the biggest cause of concern for South Africa. Just three of the home team’s batsmen got into double digits as they suffered their biggest loss in T20Is (in terms of runs).
If South Africa have to put up an improved performance with the bat, you feel a lot will depend on newly-appointed captain Quinton de Kock. The 27-year-old scored just 2 in the first T20I, but you can’t blame him much as he was on the receiving end of a sublime delivery from Starc. This was actually the first time in six T20I innings that he scored less than 30.
The two teams are heading into the T20I at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth in contrasting form. Will Australia continue their successful run of results or will South Africa get back to winning ways? We shall find out on Sunday (February 23).