Australia seek to qualify on their own terms

This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the final but it has become an almost must-win match for an Australian side that has been pushed off its No.1 ODI perch. Australia’s defeat to Zimbabwe saw on Sunday them tumble dramatically from first to fourth on the rankings. More pressingly for them it meant that unless they beat South Africa in the fifth match of the triangular, their fate regarding the final will not be in their hands.

Should Australia triumph on Tuesday, they will book their place alongside South Africa in Saturday’s showdown. If they lose, they have to hope Zimbabwe are not up for another upset against South Africa on Thursday because if that happens, Australia will go home a couple of days earlier than planned. Even if Australia lose and South Africa beat Zimbabwe, it would be far from ideal for Australia to go into the title decider with two defeats against their opponents.

To avoid that, Australia need to play spin far better than they did on Sunday and show more discipline with the ball. The latter should be restored somewhat when they bring back their premier pace bowler Mitchell Johnson.

While Australia contemplate how to go about building their innings sans the man who held it together on Sunday, Michael Clarke, South Africa may take some smug satisfaction that what they warned throughout the last three weeks has finally happened. South Africa’s song was that Zimbabwe had to be respected because they may surprise someone, especially in their own conditions.

Just like Australia struggled to adapt to the slow pace of the pitch, South Africa will know that will be a challenge for them as well. Equally, they will be aware that three wins this week could see them take over top spot in the ODI rankings as well the trophy and will no doubt be targeting the double return.

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