The next World Cup is still two years away but already South Africa are making some initial plans regarding the balance of the squad they will take to the subcontinent. In short, spin bowling will become more of a focus and the South Africans are keen to test the depth of their one-day spin stocks.
That began in Cape Town, where they bowled 22 overs of spin in their 25-run victory over Australia. Most impressive was the performance of the left-armer Roelof van der Merwe, who was playing his second ODI and took the key wickets of Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey and Callum Ferguson to finish with 3 for 37 from his ten overs.
"The team leadership have identified slow bowling looking ahead to the World Cup in Asia in 2011," South Africa's Graeme Smith said after the win. "We've got to back the spinners to do a good job. Johan [Botha] has been doing it on his own and Roelof stepped up tonight and bowled really well in his second one-day international."
Botha was a little more expensive than usual in collecting 1 for 59 from his ten overs and JP Duminy also chipped in with two overs that brought the wicket of David Hussey. Australia needed to keep the run-rate ticking over after South Africa posted 289 for 6 from their 50 overs and Smith was thrilled with the all-round effort from his men, who now hold a 2-1 lead.
"It was a clinical performance," Smith said. "We set up the innings well and had wickets in hand for the closing overs. 'Jakes' [Kallis] and AB showed a lot of skill and 289 was way above par."
From the moment Smith won a rare toss, little went right for Australia. The 114-run third-wicket stand between Kallis and de Villiers meant South Africa were on top early and Ponting said a target of 290 was simply too great. Brett Geeves battled to 1 for 67 in his second ODI and Nathan Bracken continued his below-par tour with 1 for 58.
"Every bowling change I tried tonight, we just couldn't get that breakthrough," Ponting said. "When you have wickets in hand like they had tonight, then the guys coming on at the end of the innings are always going to go for a few more. Tonight it happened to be Bracken and Geeves more than anybody else who went for a few at the end."
Compounding the problems for Australia was an injury to Geeves, who hurt himself while batting and saw out the end of Australia's unsuccessful chase with a runner. Australia are uncertain whether Geeves will be available for the fourth ODI on Monday in Port Elizabeth, where Australia must win to keep the series alive.
"He [Geeves] has a sore foot right at the moment," Ponting said. "We don't know the extent of it yet but he's hobbling around quite a bit in the change rooms."