Matches (15)
WC Warm-up (3)
Marsh Cup (1)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
T20WC QLF (2)

Injury toll mounts, death overs a worry - Australia's takeaways from South Africa

Australia head to India for a three-match series ahead of the World Cup with plenty to ponder after a 3-2 series defeat against South Africa

Alex Malcolm
Travis Head receives treatment after a blow on the hand  •  AFP/Getty Images

Travis Head receives treatment after a blow on the hand  •  AFP/Getty Images

Australia's series defeat against South Africa has exposed a few areas of concern heading into the ODI World Cup. While they were missing a number of key players, the injury toll, the manner of the defeats after holding a 2-0 lead, and the form of some key players is hard to ignore despite the series being treated as a warm-up. Here are the major takeaways as they head to India.

Australia's injury list lengthens

Australia entered the five-match series missing Pat Cummins (wrist fracture), Steven Smith (wrist tendon), Mitchell Starc (groin soreness) and Glenn Maxwell (ankle) but were buoyed by the opportunity to test their bench strength before those players returned. All of those players still need to get up to match fitness and intensity in India ahead of the World Cup but Australia leave South Africa with more injury issues.
Travis Head has a fractured hand and is in severe doubt for the World Cup. Coach Andrew McDonald confirmed after the final ODI that he is unlikely to be available for the first half of the tournament and the selectors have to decide whether to carry him in the squad or not. Sean Abbott has split the webbing in his hand and will be monitored in India.
Ashton Agar played just one game in South Africa coming off a calf tear. It was planned that he would play more but he experienced soreness and missed the second and third matches of the series before heading home for the birth of his child and he won't play in the series in India starting on Friday.
Nathan Ellis (adductor) and Spencer Johnson (hamstring) aren't in the World Cup 15-man squad at the moment but both are key back-up fast bowling options and both leave South Africa with niggles. Australia has five more matches before the World Cup to get players up and running but they also have to factor in nine World Cup pool games in eight cities over the course of only a month in the tournament proper. It is a heavy workload for even a fully fit squad.

Dismal death bowling

Australia's death bowling was woeful in the last three games of the series and it is a major concern heading to the World Cup. Cummins and Starc were missing, while Mitchell Marsh was unavailable to bowl and Cameron Green missed two of the last three games due to concussion. All of those issues meant Marsh was limited in his options as stand-in captain.
Agar's absence was also keenly felt. While he does not bowl at the death, his middle-over skills can help build more pressure on opposition teams heading into the death overs. But even the experienced trio of Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis were mauled by South Africa's middle-order in the death overs.