Bowling woes grip Australia as whitewash looms

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South Africa couldn’t have asked for a better start to their summer. After having achieved their initial objective – a series win – they are in a position to inflict a whitewash against the top-ranked ODI side.

South Africa's bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (C) celebrates after taking a wicket during the fourth One Day International (ODI) between South Africa and Australia at the St. George's Park cricket stadium on October 9, 2016 in Port Elizabeth. / AFP / MICHAEL SHEEHAN        (Photo credit should read MICHAEL SHEEHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
South Africa’s bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (C) celebrates after taking a wicket during the fourth One Day International (ODI) between South Africa and Australia at the St. George’s Park cricket stadium on October 9, 2016 in Port Elizabeth. (MICHAEL SHEEHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The margins of victory reflect how South Africa have been dominant in every aspect. Two of the wins have come with more than 10 overs to spare, another by more than 140 runs. In the only match Australia threatened to come close, at Kingsmead, a freak performance by an out-of-form David Miller sealed the series.

Miller apart, South Africa have been helped with contributions from Rilee Rossouw, Andile Phehlukwayo and Kyle Abbott, all of whom were considered fringe players coming into the series. That has meant South Africa are spoilt for choice, something Australia will covet.

That Australian haven’t bowled South Africa out even once in the series reiterates the inexperience in their attack. But that doesn’t mean there are no other headaches. Australia have crossed 300 just once and have been bowled out for under 220 twice. Their over-reliance on big names hasn’t helped their cause. But they have the added motivation of trying to avoid being blanked.

That they will have to do that at one of South Africa’s favourite grounds, in front of a sell-out crowd, will be a challenge. Newlands had earlier raised concerns about the match being scheduled on the same day as a religious holiday, Yom Kippur , but it seems the enthusiasm is hardly affected by that.

In the spotlight

With seven wickets in four matches, Andile Phehlukwayo has underlined the difference between both sides so far. Phehlukwayo is not part of the national squad in any other formats yet, but his ability to change pace and his maturity in accepting the responsibility of bowling at the death could change that. He has proved himself handy with the bat too, and can further boost his claim to be an allrounder.

Steve Smith and David Warner are the only two Australians to have scored a hundred so far and it couldn’t have happened to more contrasting men. Smith, the captain in name, doesn’t seem to bring out as much out of his men as Warner did when he led them to an ODI series win in Sri Lanka. Before the series, Smith said he hoped to continue riding the wave Warner had created, but now may be left wondering if his leadership credentials could be measured against Warner’s.

Team news

South Africa are looking at bringing back their big bowling guns in search of a clean sweep. That means Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada may force one of Kyle Abbott or Phehlukwayo out of the XI. They may continue with two spinners, with Imran Tahir likely to be brought back in place of Tabraiz Shamsi, the left-arm wrist spinner. With the Tests looming, there’s merit in giving Shamsi a breather and allowing him to fully recover from a quad niggle. Others walking wounded include Rossouw, who hurt his finger, and Farhaan Behardien, who tweaked a hamstring. Both passed fitness Tests, but Temba Bavuma has been at training as cover, while Miller has made sufficient progress from his groin strain. (ESPNcricinfo)

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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