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South Africa on brink of elusive series win

Match facts

October 5, 2016
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)

Big Picture

South Africa are a victory away from sealing their first bilateral ODI series win against Australia in seven years. They have already put on two perfect performances to get to this point. South Africa will be particularly pleased with its batting line-up, which had been hit by the absence of AB de Villiers, but has found other superstars. Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis have gone big, Rilee Rossouw has supported them strongly, JP Duminy's finishing ability is being fine-tuned and the allrounders have not had to do much. But, they will be aware that those showings came against a side missing its frontline, and even some of its second-choice seamers, and on surfaces made for big totals.

Daniel Worrall, Chris Tremain and Joe Mennie have endured a tough introduction to international cricket, but can expect things to relatively ease off as they head to the coast; on slower surfaces and in thicker air, the ball may not fly off the bat or to the boundary as quickly. More subtle skills will be required, and Adam Zampa could become even more of a factor, but for Australia to begin challenging in this series, they need their batsmen to come to the party in a big way. Converting starts will be one challenge for them, dealing with a varied South African attack that has found its focus is another.

The home team's greatest luxury is the number of options at their disposal, and that is without even taking into account those sitting on the bench. Kyle Abbott, a Durban home-boy, Dwaine Pretorius and Aaron Phangiso have not made an appearance yet, and while South Africa may not want to tinker with a winning XI, they will also understand the importance of looking at what everyone can offer.

Durban may not be the place for that, and you would be forgiven for wondering if it is the place for cricket at all. The good news is that the outfield saga that resulted in no play on three of the five days of the New Zealand Test in August has been resolved, and Kingsmead is set to show off as much as it can to repair any reputational damage. The best way for it to do that is not even in its control. Fans will seek an engaging contest, and the neutrals would want the side that has struggled so far to turn things around. Effectively, every match from here is a final for Australia, which they will have to win to take the series, but as history would remind us, Australia are pretty good at finals.

Form guide

South Africa: WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia: LLWWW

In the spotlight

Rilee Rossouw , who has reeled off two fifties in succession, kept Hashim Amla out of the XI in Johannesburg, and could do so again in Durban. Rossouw was made to front up before the media on match eve, a sign that he could play the third fixture. Rossouw's form, which has been particularly pleasing to the selectors after he had spent the last two months recovering from a shoulder problem, is not in question, but how both he and Amla will fit into the team is. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis explained that the selectors made the decision to stick with Rossouw after Amla recovered from illness even though team policy is that the incumbent should get his place his back. Rossouw may be under pressure to keep proving himself, especially if Amla has to carry drinks again.

Although Australia's young attack has appeared their weaker suit, former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said he expects Australia's batsmen to step up. "I think the batters were a little disappointing, to be honest," Haddin told the Big Sports Breakfast radio. Steven Smith is likely to come under the most scrutiny. The Australian captain has scored just 22 runs in the first two matches, but seemed it good touch before the series. Aaron Finch, who has scraped together 34 runs, will also want to offer more at the top of the order.

Teams news

The Amla-Rossouw debate will be in focus. Faf du Plessis has indicated he wants Amla back, which could see Rossouw pushed down the order at the expense of one of David Miller, JP Duminy or Farhaan Behardien. South Africa may want to give Dwaine Pretorius or Kyle Abbott an opportunity. They could do that by resting Dale Steyn, but may want to wait until the series is decided before experimenting.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Rilee Rossouw/Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 JP Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Dwaine Pretorius/Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Kyle Abbott/Dale Steyn, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir

After twin false starts, Aaron Finch may make way for Usman Khawaja while Australia will keep rotating their young seam attack. Joe Mennie took a pasting on debut and may be allowed to lick his wounds with Daniel Worrall coming back into the XI.

Australia: (possible): 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch/Usman Khawaja, 3 Steve Smith (wk), 4 George Bailey, 5 Travis Head, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Mathew Wade (wk), 8 John Hastings, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 Chris Tremain, 11 Daniel Worrall

Pitch and conditions

More eyes will be on the outfield than the pitch, especially after it received some rain on Monday. It has been dry since, and should stay that way for the match, which will prevent the problem of August from recurring. The surface itself will be slower than what was available upcountry, which could mean lower totals and more opportunity for bowlers, especially the spinners, to have their say.

Stats and trivia

  • The last time South Africa won a bilateral ODI series against Australia was in April 2009

  • David Miller is 131 runs away from completing 2,000 runs in ODIs

Quotes

"It's really important that we don't, for one second, become complacent because we know we are very far away from winning this series."
Faf du Plessis warns South Africa not to expect things to be easy over the next three matches