South Africa continue their preparation for the Cricket World Cup in England next year when they take on Australia in three ODI’s starting in Perth on Sunday.
The Proteas’ last sojourn to the Antipodes resulted in the Aussies claiming a 4-1 drubbing with victories in Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney but the hosts are not in a good space at the moment with stalwarts David Warner and captain Steve Smith currently on suspension for the sandpaper-gate scandal that erupted at Newlands earlier this year.
Australia have only won once this year from 10 starts, granted all those matches have been against England home and away, but the results over the last two years are not anything to write home about either.
The five-time world cup winners have only won nine games in 29 attempts since December 2016, a run that includes only two no results and one abandonment. The reading, for Australian supporters, is even more grim as seven of those nine wins came at the end of 2016 – a 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand – and then a 4-1 series victory over Pakistan in early 2017, all on home soil.
That, then, makes it only two victories in the 50-over format since January 2017, a span that includes 21 games. This type of run would not have been heard of in the days of Steve Waugh, Alan Border or Ricky Ponting.
South Africa, though, have fared far better than their bitter, Southern Hemisphere rivals with 20 victories in 33 starts over the last two years. In that period, the Proteas have claimed series wins over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but were pipped 2-1 by England, a solitary loss to Pakistan and then a heavy 6-1 drubbing at the hands of India.
This short, whirlwind tour will give the World Cup hopefuls a chance to win their first ODI series in Australia since 2009, when they claimed a 4-1 series victory.
South Africa’s top-order has struggled of late with Quinton de Kock not scoring many runs and with Hashim Amla being out injured, the inexperienced Aiden Markram has had to step up with limited success. The young right-hander has scored 320 runs in 13 innings, averaging just 24.61 with only one fifty to his name.
A lot will be expected from the likes of David Miller and Chris Morris, while Lungi Ngidi will be hoping to enjoy his first Australian tour under the wings of Dale Steyn, who returns to Perth for the first time since his shoulder injury here in 2016.
The Proteas will be hoping to get off to a good start in Perth, a ground they hold the edge over their hosts with four wins in six games. Their only two defeats at the ground came in February 2002, despite an unbeaten century from Jacques Kallis, and in November 2014.
The second ODI is being played in Adelaide, where the Proteas have only played once – and won – when AB de Villiers (82 not out) and Amla (80 not out) shared in an unbroken stand of 144 for the third wicket to give the visitors an eight-wicket victory. It was also a good allround bowling performance with Steyn and Makhaya Ntini grabbing three wickets each while Johann Botha snagged a brace while only conceding 28 runs in 10 overs.
The third and final ODI takes place in Hobart, a venue that has only hosted one other match between the sides, a game that the hosts won by just five runs.
In that match, Steyn (2-36), Ntini (3-39) and Kallis (2-57) helped keep the total to 249-9 with Shaun Marsh (78) and Ponting (64) making the lions share of the runs. The Proteas failed in their chase, ending on 244-6 with Kallis scoring 72, despite JP Duminy (35) and Mark Boucher (37 not out) scoring at more than a run a ball.
Despite what has happened in the past, both sides will be looking to get the best out of their fringe players in preparation for the showpiece next year, but we all know that any series between the two sides, will be fought fiercely and with some spice.