Australia v South Africa, Tri-series, Harare September 1, 2014

Australia seek to qualify on their own terms

Match facts

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Start time 0930 local (0730GMT)

Big Picture

This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the final but it has become an almost must-win match for an Australian side that has been pushed off its No.1 ODI perch. Australia's defeat to Zimbabwe saw on Sunday them tumble dramatically from first to fourth on the rankings. More pressingly for them it meant that unless they beat South Africa in the fifth match of the triangular, their fate regarding the final will not be in their hands.

Should Australia triumph on Tuesday, they will book their place alongside South Africa in Saturday's showdown. If they lose, they have to hope Zimbabwe are not up for another upset against South Africa on Thursday because if that happens, Australia will go home a couple of days earlier than planned. Even if Australia lose and South Africa beat Zimbabwe, it would be far from ideal for Australia to go into the title decider with two defeats against their opponents.

To avoid that, Australia need to play spin far better than they did on Sunday and show more discipline with the ball. The latter should be restored somewhat when they bring back their premier pace bowler Mitchell Johnson.

While Australia contemplate how to go about building their innings sans the man who held it together on Sunday, Michael Clarke, South Africa may take some smug satisfaction that what they warned throughout the last three weeks has finally happened. South Africa's song was that Zimbabwe had to be respected because they may surprise someone, especially in their own conditions.

Just like Australia struggled to adapt to the slow pace of the pitch, South Africa will know that will be a challenge for them as well. Equally, they will be aware that three wins this week could see them take over top spot in the ODI rankings as well the trophy and will no doubt be targeting the double return.

Form guide

(last five completed games most recent first)
Australia LLWWL South Africa WWWWW

In the spotlight

South Africa's batsmen stole the spotlight in their first match against Australia, which may have left the likes of Dale Steynfeeling a little left out. Steyn enjoys performing for the gallery as much as the stroke-makers and will be itching to leave his mark on the tournament, especially after being rested for the three ODIs against Zimbabwe which preceded it. So far, Steyn has claimed four scalps at 22.50 and his economy is 4.86 runs to the over and he will be keen to crank it up the way Mitchell Starc did against Zimbabwe and add to his wicket tally.

In the absence of a leader, teams often turn to their senior-most player for guidance, even if he is not the captain's substitute. In Australia's case, that person is Brad Haddin. He will be consulted when it comes to strategy and expected to do his bit in the bid for success. Luckily for Australia, that is exactly the kind of player Haddin is. Although he does not have a fifty in this tournament yet, he has performed at the top and in the middle of the order for Australia and gives them much-needed security no matter what the situation.

Team news

With Michael Clarke out of the tournament, the captaincy will go back to George Bailey. Mitchell Marsh had success in the No.3 position earlier in the series so will return there with space created lower down for Steve Smith, especially after he received a glowing recommendation from Clarke for his ability to play spin. Mitchell Johnson should make his return to the XI which will leave two spaces for the other two bowling all-rounders.

Australia: (likely) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Steve Smith 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 and 9 James Faulkner/Kane Richardson/Ben Cutting/, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Nathan Lyon

Provided AB de Villiers' cramp was just that and not a hamstring niggle, he will return to captain South Africa. That may not mean Rilee Rossouw's chances of playing again are completely over. JP Duminy is nursing a knee injury which could give Rossouw an opportunity to score his first international run. Morne Morkel is the other walking wounded. He has a sore shoulder and if he hasn't recovered, it will be a tough call to decide whether South Africa need two spinners or an additional seamer. Either way, it is unlikely Wayne Parnell will be able to force Kyle Abbott out of the side.

South Africa: (likely) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Kyle Abbott, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel/Aaron Phangiso, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

The surface used for the third match between Australia and Zimbabwe on Sunday was the first time Harare groundstaff re-used a strip in the tournament and all the signs of wear were evident. Run-scoring was slow and there was significant turn which suggests totals will become lower and spinners will have more of a role to play as the final looms. A different pitch will be used for this game but it may also be suffering some fatigue.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa's successful chase of 328 against Australia last week was their 20th win batting second against Australia. They have lost 27 times while chasing against Australia and defended successfully against them 17 out of 33 times.
  • Australia's defeat to Zimbabwe on Sunday means that both Australia and South Africa have now lost to Zimbabwe twice in their ODI histories.


"It was a case of making sure we gave everyone enough game time. It shouldn't matter what side we put out against Zimbabwe, but it did, and we didn't play well enough."
Darren Lehmann defends the exclusion of Steven Smith from the team during their defeat against Zimbabwe

"I just want to get game time, which is what most players want. This is the first lengthy run that I have got with the team so I'm focused on doing well in this series."
South Africa' second specialist spinner Aaron Phangiso is not looking at this competition as a World Cup audition

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent