This may be a dead rubber for both teams but Australia and South Africa have long had a fierce rivalry.
The Proteas will be keen to salvage some pride from their final fixture while the Aussies will want to build further momentum heading into the semi-finals. Australia should also get motivation from their poor recent record against South Africa, who have beaten them in eight of their past 10 ODIs.
Key strategy: Will Australia experiment with tactics ahead of the semi-finals?
Australia’s top four is in great shape, its attack is dominating and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey is having the breakout moment of his international career. The one glaring weakness in the side is the form of all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell.
Stoinis has been in dire form with the bat for more than a year now, while Maxwell’s batting has tapered off in this tournament and he’s had a shocker with the ball, taking 0-238.
At the time of writing it’s not clear whether he will be fit to play given his mishap at training.
With Australia having qualified for the semi-finals it will be interesting to see if they offer greater responsibility to Maxwell and Stoinis in this match to try to get them into form.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they consider promoting Stoinis up the order to give him extra time in the middle, and if they also give both players plenty of overs.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis
With Quentin de Kock below his best in this tournament, Hashim Amla well past his peak, and Aiden Markram and JP Duminy struggling, du Plessis has had to step up for the Proteas.
He’s done that with aplomb, anchoring their batting line-up as he has done for years now.The South African captain is one of the world’s most underrated ODI cricketers.
While most cricketer observers would recognise him as a very good 50-over batsman, he is in fact elite and has been for years. Over the past five years du Plessis has piled up an incredible 4,305 runs at 57 in ODIs – only four batsmen have scored more runs in that time
He is rock solid against pace, assured against spin and has multiple gears to his batting, which helps him adapt to a variety of conditions and match situations.
The Proteas captain also loves playing against Australia. He has made 980 runs at 52 against the Aussies in ODIs, including four tons.
Key Australian: David Warner
The last time David Warner played the Proteas he had a prolonged meltdown that derailed his career. It began with him losing his cool badly on and off the field during Australia’s Test series in South Africa in March last year.
The culmination was Warner’s apparently central role in the ball tampering scandal that embarrassed Australian cricket. This match, then, will surely be a very significant moment for Warner, and for Steve Smith, who was also banned for a year over the scandal.
Warner has a turbulent history with the Proteas, having become embroiled in many slanging matches with them over the years. Now, however, he appears intent on improving his on-field behaviour and avoiding conflict.
Warner is channelling his energy into making runs. That has worked spectacularly well so far, with the left hander piling up 516 runs at 74 in this World Cup.
The Proteas will need to dislodge him early or he’ll guide the Aussie innings once more. Warner has had great success against South Africa in all formats so I think they will view him as the key wicket.
South Africa: Chris Morris
The tall bowling all-rounder wasn’t in the Proteas line-up at the start of the tournament but has since made a huge impact, taking 12 wickets at 23 to be their most impactful bowler.
In a World Cup where intimidating speed has been highly effective, Morris’ pace has been at the heart of his success.
Not only can he push the speed gun beyond 145kmh but, at 196cm tall, he also gets disconcerting bounce. Australia will be understandably wary of pace superstar Kagiso Rabada and spin wizard Imran Tahir. But Morris has caught many teams off guard in this tournament and could do so again today.
Australia: Nathan Lyon
South Africa are one of the weakest sides against spin in this World Cup. Whereas Australia, for example, have made a point of attacking opposition spinners in this tournament, the Proteas often have been too defensive against the slow bowlers.
Lyon has taken only one wicket from his two matches so far yet has still been of immense value.
The off spinner’s role in this Australian team is to keep things as tight as possible and build pressure upon which his bowling colleagues can capitalise.
He has done that brilliantly, conceding a miserly 4.15 runs per over. I think today will be a chance for him to boost his wicket tally.
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