England hero Ben Stokes was the difference for the home team as they kept their bid to win back the Ashes alive with a thrilling one-wicket victory at Headingley.
With the series level at one game apiece, Australia and South Africa were shipped down to Hobart to decide who would win this series. A harsh but fair decision from the two cricketing boards. They won’t learn otherwise.
Here are the ratings for the Third ODI between Australia and South Africa.
Strangling the Batsmen
Australia won the toss and chose to bowl. It seemed a very sound strategy when the Australian seamers were able to take early wickets and restrict the South African top order.
In particular, Aiden Markram was dotting out endless deliveries as he sought to get himself in. Remember: if five out of the six balls you bowl to Markram in an over aren’t scored from, that’s called an ‘Aiden’.
Eventually, Markram was strangled down the leg side. Of course, this wasn’t ‘strangled’ in the literal sense. I mean, of course, that he was caught behind from a ball he tried to leg glance off his pads. Strangling in the colloquial cricketing sense.
It wasn’t as if Simon Katich wasn’t lurking at leg slip and mistook him for Michael Clarke or something. (Allegedly.)
But you knew that. Why are you wasting my time with your feigned confusion?
Fox Cricket Shenanigans
Simon Katich may not have been lurking at square leg, but you know what was? The Flying Fox, which is Fox Cricket’s rebranded SpiderCam. Because, y’know, they’re not Spider Cricket.
The Flying Fox has been augmented with the ability to interview cricketers when they least expect it. So, for example. Shane Warne could pop in via Flying Fox to ask Marcus Stoinis how he feels about Warne’s new nickname for him of ‘The Hulk’.
I’m assuming Stoinis feels like most fans do. That is, he’s sceptical about how in-depth Warne’s knowledge of the Hulk mythos is. Has Warne read Peter David’s run on Marvel’s pre-eminent monster anti-hero? Does he understand the green behemoth’s relationship with Betty Ross? Is he aware of the more nuanced history of the Grey Hulk? Frankly, I have my doubts.
Regardless, it’s surely only a matter of time until a tech-savvy international side hacks these interview robots and gets a player to spill all their team’s tactics. And that will be the end of it.
Faf du Plessis and David Miller
Despite Australia’s fine early bowling, fans of this current Australian ODI side knew it couldn’t last. And it didn’t, as Faf du Plessis and David Miller put on a 252 run partnership, eventually helping South Africa recover to a daunting 5/320 off their fifty overs.
The partnership wasn’t without its hiccups. At one point, du Plessis recoiled from a ball that reared up at him from a good length. Mark Howard on commentary confirmed that the delivery which surprised Faf with its sharp and dangerous bounce, was an ‘Alinta Energy’ ball. Should the Alinta Energy Ball be outlawed? Sadly, the answer must be yes.
An LBW decision to Glenn Maxwell was also overturned when the ball-tracking revealed it to be bouncing over the stumps despite hitting Miller below the knee roll on the crease. Why Maxwell had chosen to bowl that particular ball at the WACA was a mystery. But also classic Maxwell.
Still, full credit to the bowlers. Nine out of the eleven South African batsmen had effectively been negated by Australia’s combined bowling effort.
Chris Lynn opened the Australian batting. And was out to the first legitimate delivery he faced. Lynn’s fans often refer to his explosive batting as ‘Lynnsane’. However, this innings had been diagnosed more seriously as ‘clynnically lynnsane’.
The great thing about Chris Lynn is that even if he doesn’t contribute with the bat you know he also hasn’t contributed with the ball or in the field either.
The ideal modern white ball cricketer is one equally effective at multiple facets of the game. And Lynn had shown himself to be that ideal cricketer yet again in this match.
Meanwhile, Lungi Ngidi – perhaps my favourite ever cricketer who has consecutive ‘ngi’s in his name – accounted for Aaron Finch. Yet again proving that old cricketing truism that consecutive NGIs are better than consecutive As.
But just as all looked lost, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis came together. The two of them consolidated at first and then looked to accelerate, just as du Plessis and Miller had for South Africa.
It’s important for chasing batsmen to remember that you always have more time than you think. (Unless, of course, you think you have 300 overs or something. Then you have much, much less time.)
Shaun Marsh made a scintillating ton and now averages 64 in international cricket since he had an abscess removed from his buttocks. Should more Australian cricketers have bum surgery? Common sense says yes.
However, by the time Shaun Marsh was out and Alex Carey followed him, the required run rate was too high for even Maxwell to sort out.
Handy rule of thumb: if Maxwell can’t score at the required run rate, it’s gone too high.
Still, congratulations to South Africa for their series win. Looking forward to seeing how they choke in next year’s World Cup.