HARARE — South Africa will look to extract an advantage from their superior spin stocks when they take on a hard-hitting Australian side in the second cricket match of a triangular series in Harare today.
Number 1 ranked Australia issued a statement of intent on Monday when they crushed Zimbabwe by 198 runs in the series opener, exhibiting a greater degree of ruthlessness than South Africa did in winning a three-match one-day series against the hosts in Bulawayo last week.
Australia showed Zimbabwe no respect in hammering 147 runs in the final 10 overs to rack up 350 for six on a slow wicket, proving that their big-hitting middle order can be particularly difficult to contain.
However, with the dry, late winter pitches in Harare suiting the spinners more than the fast bowlers, the Proteas could have an advantage.
Legspinner Imran Tahir and left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso both picked up regular wickets against Zimbabwe while conceding less than four runs per over, and also have the support of JP Duminy, whose off spin has become a regular feature for the Proteas.
By contrast, Australia brought just one specialist spinner in Nathan Lyon, and although he picked up a couple of wickets on Monday, he was also hit for 42 runs in seven overs by a struggling Zimbabwean line-up.
“The wicket in Harare is a lot slower so it might be a strategy that we might try and use,” Duminy said of the spin factor.
However, fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have returned to the South African squad after they were rested for the bilateral series against Zimbabwe, setting up the tantalising spectacle of the world’s two fastest bowling attacks going head-to-head.
“The great thing about our seam attack is that they can adapt to all conditions so it will be a good challenge for us,” Duminy said.
“This is the pinnacle of cricket, you want to play against the best in the world, so we are looking forward to it. They have a lot of match-winners and we will need to find a way to curb them.”
With Michael Clarke set to sit out the game as he awaits a full recovery from a hamstring injury, George Bailey will continue to lead the side in his absence.
One of the Australians who found form on Monday was Mitchell Marsh, who was entrusted with the No 3 berth and paced his innings perfectly to score 89 from 83 deliveries.
The allrounder also picked up 1 for 15 in five overs, and believes Australia’s seamers have adapted to the conditions sufficiently to make up for any deficiency they may have in the spin department.
“The way all the bowlers bowled (against Zimbabwe), they took pace off the ball at the right time and I think that’s going to be key on this wicket,” Marsh said.
“There’s a lot of experience in our changing room, they’ve played on these sorts of wickets all around the world, so I don’t think it’s anything too new.”