ODI – Australia v South Africa: Proteas too good at Blundstone Arena, but Australia start remembering how to play the game

 

 

 

Australia v South Africa ODI 3, Blundstone Arena, 11 November 2018

 

I’m surprised to find myself the first customer at Bicycle Network’s bike valet service, with only 15 minutes until the first ball is bowled. With a guaranteed park within metres of the main gate, it’s a no-brainer in my book.

 

Inside to a Blundstone Arena filled (well, not exactly) with people standing for a quite well done Remembrance Day ceremony. Taking my seat in the Ricky Ponting Stand after the national anthems (love Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika), the players are introduced to the strains of the theme from the excellent WW2 TV drama The Pacific.

 

Australia have sent South Africa in, and the openers duly struggle. De Kock sustains a hit amidships from Starc’s first ball, and next over nicks him to Carey. The top order struggle to gauge the pace of the wicket. Hendricks finally gets off the mark from his 17th ball faced with a fine back foot drive through extra cover. As the pressure builds, Markram is fortunate to survive a suicidal single attempt from a push to mid wicket. A six over the same area shortly thereafter, fast and flat, breaks the shackles.

 

Head puts down a sharp chance diving to his right at cover. Hendricks had picked up another boundary from a glance fine, but an attempted repeat off Stoinis’ second ball costs him his wicket, Carey a good catch down leg side. A touch unlucky, however he’d never looked comfortable.

 

Markram is starting to, though. A pull of Stoinis over the square leg bounces into Church Street. The dose is repeated in Stoinis’ next over. The ball must have disappeared into the rose bushes in someone’s front yard this time, and is replaced. However, batters still seem to be struggling to get a bead on the bounce, du Plessis casting his bat at his own feet as a Starc scorcher rockets from short of a length to pin his gloves to the handle.

 

Having weathered the storm, Miller and du Plessis put on 50 steadily, then look to cash in as Maxwell comes on. Miller survives a positive LBW verdict after he’s struck in front, but to my eye square of the wicket he’d stretched the front pad a long way down the pitch, and the Newtonian physics of the DRS do indeed play out to have the ball passing a millimetre or two over leg stump. Another narrow escape for Miller as a miscued pull carries just far enough over mid on to evade Finch’s lumbering lunge.

 

Zampa’s return from the river end in the 40th over is greeted warmly by Miller, a huge sweep over square leg reaching the second tier of the Ricky Ponting Stand, about thirty seats to my left. But with both batsmen in their 70s and set, Hazlewood is not spared either, deposited over mid wicket by du Plessis. The South African run rate touches 5 for the first time, in the 41st over.

 

The early pitch demons long forgotten, both South Africans are hitting the boundary at will with both power and deft placement. They’ve been matching pace throughout but it’s du Plessis touching the ton first at just under a run a ball. Miller does the same at just over a run a ball shortly thereafter. Du Plessis proceeds to christen a new replacement bat with an extraordinary bash of a Starc short one through center field, bouncing only just short of the rope.

 

All the stops are out now, in the 47th over; Miller plonks Cummins onto the hill in the outer. Two more brilliantly placed and timed fours follow in succession. Even Starc is not spared at this stage, launched into a suborbital trajectory over deep mid on by Miller. This over, the 48th, costs him 20. The worst ball of the innings, a shocker from Stoinis that bounces in his quarter of the pitch, is what finally does for du Plessis, straining to put bat on it as it lollops through. He departs to a standing ovation, as does Miller off the third last ball of the innings, only deft trans-boundary footwork by Finch and another metre between him and yet another six.

 

South Africa 5/320 (Miller 139 (108), du Plessis 125 (114)

 

The chase starts inauspiciously, opener(?) Lynn getting a great corridor ball from Steyn, and feathering it behind.
Finch hits the boundary nicely a couple of times, then encounters the same bounce-gauging issue as the South African top order. His mistimed push carries easily to Rabada at mid on. Shaun Marsh is stroking it beautifully albeit hitting the field as often as the boundary, but Travis Head never gets going and flashes outside off to give a sharp catch to Markram at backward point off Rabada.

 

A lean period follows, Australia almost identically placed to the South Africans at the same stage, 3/53 at the first drinks break. Still in the same vein, it’s the fourth wicket partnership that begins to show sparks of life. Both Stoinis and Marsh deposit braces of sixes over midwicket, three of them off Tahir. By the 26th over, both are in their 50s.

 

The South Africans think they have Stoinis LBW and so does the umpire, but Stoinis instantly invokes the DRS and it duly reveals the hottest of hot spots from a thick bottom edge, and Stoinis remains on 55. Marsh rubs it in with a six smashed over square leg, and it takes one of Tasmania’s finest to hold on to the catch – the Blundstone Arena crowd’s record has been singularly poor to this point. Stoinis gets another six away to the opposite side of the ground but is gone next ball, a waft outside off only succeeding in delivering a chest high catch to Markram at point.

 

As Daniel Brettig put it on Twitter, the partnership ended at ‘useful’ when Australia needed ‘amazing’, i.e. something to match du Plessis and Miller. We’ll see what Carey can do. Yet another six onto the mound at mid wicket augurs well. But the required run rate is heading inexorably to double figures territory. Marsh staves it back with a slogged six over wide mid on – another crowd catch missed. He carries on. A smashing straight drive off Tahir for two brings up a terrific century off 97 balls. Australia still need more than that to win though, with less than 10 overs to do it.

 

And again Australia’s bats can’t quite match the feats of their Saffer counterparts – Marsh skies enormously but inadequately to Klaasen who has time to make a cup of tea before taking the catch comfortably. Maxwell to the crease.
Carey sends one almost as high off Ngidi, but the catch is put down at deep fine leg.

 

The required rate climbs over 11, then 12. Steyn returns to the attack in the 45th over and frustrates with some wide bouncers millimetres this side of legal, then a good one that gets Carey to nick behind. Into the Australian tail with the advent of Cummins, only four wickets in hand and the cause is looking lost. Especially after Cummins lives up to the billing, swings and missing his first five balls, when all he needed to do was get something on it and get up the other end for Maxwell to take strike. Maxi subsequently does his best but can’t hit the boundaries as regularly as is needed. He holes out to deep point at the start of the penultimate over, and with over four a ball needed, much of the crowd head for the exits.

 

Batters did seem to struggle to judge the pace of the pitch early, but given 600 runs scored on it one has to question Finch’s decision to bowl. Nevertheless, there were encouraging signs of an Australian team regaining its mojo. Maybe even of becoming again a team to take pride in.

 

Australia 9/280 (Marsh 106 (102), Stoinis 63 (76), Steyn 3/45 (10), Rabada 3/40 (10)

About Mark Duffett

Expatriate Croweater in Tasmania, still following Centrals in the SANFL. You can take the boy out of Salisbury, but...

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Nice work Mark.

    Will this S. Marsh ton persuade selectors to overlook his failure in UAE? Likely, to judge by the past.

    Australia showed signs after a poor first game. But the batting will be a question all summer.

    And if the quicks can’t stay fit then it could get ugly.

    Cheers

  2. Miller hits a clean ball.

  3. Good summary, Mark. I was half expecting to see you leaping out of your chair at some point to drop a six. If the umpire correctly refuses the South African review of Miller’s dismissal, Australia win, so the result doesn’t bother me too much. It was a really entertaining game of cricket and we found out a bit about a number of players. That said, I can’t see either team going too far at the world cup. England, India and Pakistan all seem much better balanced to me.

  4. Mark Duffett says:

    Thanks, all. I’ve been as much of a Marsh skeptic as anyone, JB, but by gee he was hitting them sweetly last night. I for one will be cutting him some more slack in future. It is somewhat of a worry that close to Australia’s best attack went for 320. The bowling depth will be tested this summer. Zampa bowled better than in Adelaide without looking dangerous, albeit on an unhelpful pitch.

    Miller is something else, Smokie. Putting it into the top tier of the stand is one thing, but it was the apparent effortlessness of it that stays with me.

    Thanks, Dave. I wasn’t fully alive to the irregularity of Miller/du Plessis’s review call at the time other than that it did seem to take ages, but I reckon you’re right about both the short and longer term lessons. The tail of both sides looks to be too long.

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Excellent report Mark. Sad that you don’t get anymore international cricket down there this Summer.
    Strange batting order from Australia last night. Lynn doesn’t have the footwork to be an opener, his stand and deliver method would be better further down the order. And why is Maxwell at number 7 in a big run chase? Ridiculous.

  6. Mark Duffett says:

    Thanks, Luke. Spot on with your comments on the order.

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