Wednesday, March 8, 2016
Start time 1800 local (1600GMT)
All eyes will be on Aaron Phangiso if he is cleared to play in Cape Town © AFP
For the second time this summer, a limited-overs series enters the final match with the sides locked all-square. This one will cap off a blockbuster season of international cricket that has captured the imagination of the country’s cricket-lovers. Australia’s visit follows England’s and while some might think hosting two of the big three in the same season may serve to remind South Africa if their status in the small seven, in shorter formats it has done quite the opposite.
South Africa built confidence with five successive wins over England and kept on that roll in the first match against Australia. Now, as CSA posted on their Twitter account, “it all comes down to 1.”
Victory for South Africa in the final T20 will give them a boost ahead of the World T20. Defeat will have the reverse effect and highlight the few lingering issues, especially around the middle-order and how JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien fit in. The most delicate issue for them to resolve, though, is regarding Aaron Phangiso. The left-arm spinner will only know the results of the tests on his bowling action shortly before the match. If he passes, he will play ahead of the World T20. If he does not, South Africa may call up a replacement at the 11th hour and give him a game before the tournament.
Whereas South Africa’s has steadily built with recent results – notwithstanding the defeat in Johannesburg – Australia are still trying to formulate their T20 gameplan having had precious few games in the format over the last two years. The success of David Warner in the middle order suggests they are finding one solution – alongside Glenn Maxwell it backs for a dynamic pairing – but they will want a more all-round performance before they head to India.
(last five completed games most recent first)
In the spotlight
South Africa’s highest T20 run-scorer JP Duminy is under pressure to prove his worth despite his numbers because of his recent, unremarkable form. Duminy has not scored an international fifty since October last year – 20 innings ago – and has miscued to midwicket twice in this series. Despite strong support from the coach, Russell Domingo, the pressure is growing on Duminy to deliver especially as his bowling is playing far less of a role.
In a similar position is Shane Watson who was not tasked with bowling during the second match in an Australian attack with plenty of options. Watson’s job is to push one of Usman Khawaja or Aaron Finch out of the XI by getting Australia off to a quick start. Watson has only just recovered from an abdominal injury which ruled him out of the PSL but he was in fine touch before that, with the second highest score in T20I history, and will want to get back into that form ahead of the World T20.
South Africa will wait until the last minute to see if Phangiso’s action is declared legal. If so, he will play in Imran Tahir’s place to get game time ahead of the World T20. In other changes, South Africa’s aim of giving everyone a go means that Hashim Amla must return for this match, likely at the expense of Quinton de Kock. Dale Steyn could continue to keep Kyle Abbott out unless Kagiso Rabada is rested.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 AB de Villiers (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 JP Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 David Wiese, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir
Australia found a winning combination in the last match which vindicated their decision to keep David Warner out of the opening berth. Having already tried the Usman Khawaya/Aaron Finch and Shane Watson/Aaron Finch combination the only one left for them to try is Khawaja/Watson, which could see Finch sit out. Nathan Coulter-Nile could find his way back into the XI and Adam Zampa may be preferred over Ashton Agar in the spin department.
Australia: (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 David Warner, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 James Faulkner, 8 Peter Nevill (wk), 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 John Hastings/Nathan Coulter-Nile 11, Adam Zampa
Pitch and conditions
After the thin air on the Highveld, the teams return to the coast where, as was the case during the England series last month, scores are expected to be lower. The Newlands pitch will be more subcontinental in nature and may even take some turn will which aid in preparation for the World T20. The weather, though, will be entirely different. It is expected to be mild and breezy with evening temperatures touching 20 degrees.
Stats and Trivia
- Faf du Plessis needs nine more runs to become the third South African after JP Duminy and AB de Villiers to reach 1,000 T20I runs.
- Australia have won the last two T20 series against South Africa, which has included the only three-match rubber between the two sides. Then, in November 2014, South Africa went one up but squandered the lead.
“There is a bit of importance. But if we were playing the series in India it would be more important; the fact that it’s here in SA means the wickets are different. We know series wins against Australia don’t come easily. But there’s a bigger picture. When we get to India and we play against them in different conditions there, we’ll see what happens.”
Quinton de Kock knows the challenge will be different at the World T20
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo