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WI-W v NZ-W (2)
Legends League (1)
Asia Cup (3)
Shield (3)
IND v SA (1)
5th ODI (D/N), Sydney, November 23, 2014, South Africa tour of Australia [November 2014]
(47.1/48 ov, T:275) 275/8

Australia won by 2 wickets (with 5 balls remaining) (D/L method)

Player Of The Match
107 (123)
Player Of The Series
254 runs • 1 wkt

Series dead, ODI ranking battle alive

Having sealed the series in Melbourne, Australia can grab the World No. 1 ODI ranking from South Africa by defeating the visitors at the SCG

Match facts

Sunday, November 23, Sydney
Start time 1420 local (0320GMT)

Big Picture

Cricket administrators cry "context" for ODI matches almost as much as the writers of broadsheet newspaper editorials gush about "narrative" when it comes to governments. The dead rubber ODI at the SCG finds itself with about as much context as the current schedule and ICC rankings system can possibly give it - though Australia wrapped up the series at the MCG thanks to Steven Smith, they can now clasp the top spot on the ODI table by extending the margin to 4-1.
Australia's cricketers have already learned much this series - Smith must be a first choice selection across formats, Josh Hazlewood is coming nicely to the boil, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell are both off it, and Matthew Wade has learned a thing or two since his last stint in the team. Their board has also found a few reasons for pause: attendances for the series have been poor, raising questions about international fixtures in November, Cricket Australia's ticket pricing and the general lack of awareness about these matches, and their revolving door of players.
Now both hosts and visitors will answer a few more questions before calling a truce until the World Cup in February. Just as Melbourne will be the venue for the final, Sydney will host a semi, meaning local knowledge will be useful. The likes of Bailey, Maxwell, Farhaan Behardien, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson and David Miller will all be hoping to make a final decent impression, as their next ODI matches in Australia will take place when their nations' cup squads have been finalised. Sydney on a warm Sunday afternoon will also answer another question - if this game with all its "context" cannot draw a crowd, then what can, really?

Form guide

(last five completed games, most recent first)
Australia WWLWW
South Africa LLWLW

In the spotlight

Since his fortunate but spinal 70 in the first game, George Bailey has struggled notably for timing and impact with the bat, leaving his standing as a respected team leader and stand-in captain more or less the only thing keeping him from being dropped. With Michael Clarke's fitness a matter for enormous conjecture, Bailey is still needed by Australian cricket, but the skyrocketing stocks of Steve Smith are placing his spot in the ODI top six in danger should the full-time captain regather his ability to run and bat. A fretful stay at the SCG leaves one more chance for Bailey to remind the selectors that his value extends beyond wise words in the change room and neat tactics on the field. His World Cup spot may depend on it.
Seven boundaries were coshed from the bowling of Ryan McLaren on Friday, the most of any South African. His scores of 0 and 13 also did not engender confidence, and despite a perfectly serviceable ODI record his place is now under some threat ahead of the World Cup. South Africa must decide on their middle order/allrounder composition, and with JP Duminy to come back from a knee ailment McLaren will need to present some sort of case for his inclusion at the SCG - provided he is retained, of course.

Team news

Shane Watson may take a break ahead of his likely selection in Australia's Test squad for Brisbane, while Josh Hazlewood could also be placed on ice. Kane Richardson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins would still provide a sturdy attack, while the in-form Smith may move back up to No. 3.
Australia (possible) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, George Bailey (capt), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 James Faulkner, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Xavier Doherty
Having rested from Melbourne, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander may return to the team in place of Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell. AB de Villiers jarred a rib at the MCG and may sit out the final match of the series as a result.
South Africa (possible) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Farhaan Behardien, 5 Rilee Rossouw, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Kyle Abbott, 11 Morne Morkel.

Pitch and conditions

The SCG's first international for the season is likely to take place on a slowish pitch as the ground staff build towards a peak of pace and bounce for January's New Year's Test. The Matador Cup final surface was dry and sluggish, but both pitch and outfield have progressed somewhat since then.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa won their first ODI against Australia at the SCG by a vast nine-wicket margin during the 1992 World Cup, but have won only twice since in a further nine meetings with the hosts
  • A home victory would allow Australia to return to No. 1 in the world ODI rankings


"It adds a lot. We pride ourselves on that. We try to get to No.1 in every form of the game. To win in Sydney would be great and to take that No.1 mantle back would be outstanding."
Steve Smith on the motivation provided by the chance to re-take top spot

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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