As mentioned previously, winning the toss at Newlands in an ODI is crucial, as most of the time batting first is the ideal way to go. Plenty evening dew, a slow outfield and wicket, maybe a bit of swing with a breeze...yeah, bat first!
But Punter finally ended his toss winning streak, and Graeme Smith had the chance to get things up and running for the 3rd ODI. Before I carry on, I am most upset my 4-1 prediction is now at end, so I will be routing for 2-2 to go to the Wanderers, and Aussie to win it!
Mitchell Johnson was once again superb with the bowling, and I cannot believe how he just keeps going! Either endless overs in test cricket, long sessions with the bat in hand, lots of work in the ODI arena, and even as an acting runner for an injured Brett Geeves. Yeah, Mitch has it all going for himself. 4/34 in 10 overs were his figures, which is terrific stuff. I still cannot believe at times his emergence in his abilities in such a short space of time. Now he is bringing his ODI game together!
Unfortunately no-one else could provide the economic input we needed.
Nathan Bracken was looking a bit better out there, and it is safe to say he is just not quite on the ball game at the moment, but with 2 ODI's to go, I will never rule the economic bowling Guru out at all!
I was surprised as Brett Geeves inclusion over Ben Laughlin, and while I wasn't by any means all low over it, I just find it a pity Brett didn't have the ultimate game given the chance. With a possible injury Ben faces another definite possibility out there again which is a good thing.
It is easy to point out where the Proteas got momentum with their batting.
The Jaques Kallis (70) and AB deVilliers (80) partnership gave their middle order a perfect platform to settle down and make a defendable total. They found the gaps, and especially during the slow bowler period in the 25th over roughly (if memory serves) it seemed that they had managed to work the singles around quite comfortably, therefore rotating strike.
A couple hit and giggle, powerful striking innings' from Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel assisted in pushing onto 289, a highly competitive total.
A few of us have spoken of the weakened armour at the top of the order. Sure we don't have Shaun Marsh or Shane Watson, but I can't say it was down to poor shot selection, just a very frantic moment for Brad Haddin who was run out on 15! I am still convinced that Brad is capable at holding his own at the top of the order, but a run that wasn't on, and wasn't really needed at that stage, resulted in the momentum quickly swaying in the Proteas favour. Punter had three lifelines (two drop catches and an embarrassing misattempt at a run out on the Proteas behalf) but 20 was all he managed, so the anticipation for that ODI ton continues! A bit of a soft dismissal too on his part, but it was to Johan Botha who, sorry to all his supporters, has a bowling action I am still not at all convinced by. But will save that argument for when he gets another wicket.
Pup did look a lot more in the game. I have mentioned that there seems to be some distraction with him as an onlooker observing, but he really did look more in it. He was playing his strokes, running hard, but could only blame himself on getting out to a very erratic shot at a stage where ticking the scoreboard would have most likely got us home, and that I am certain about, as we only came 25 short!
David Hussey tried but looked to creep back into his complacency shell, and instead of launching with his aggressive intentions, rather pushed it up like a chip with a pitching wedge. I was hoping for some of his big hitting!
But I feel totally gutted for Michael Hussey. Huss is one of my favourite cricketers and just think he is of such value to Australian cricket. He has been having a tough time out there this season, and after his super knock in the first ODI, the LBW decisions have gotten him trapped two games in a row. I just sensed his total disbelief and disapointment.
DON'T GIVE UP HUSS! Keep at it, play your natural game which you have mastered, and the runs will happen consistently, you are to great a cricketer!
Fatigue and mental exhaustion seems apparent for a number of the players, so the guys taking a break after this series rightly deserve it!
But I have to as always give credit where due, and that is too South Australia's finest Callum Ferguson and James 'Catfish' Hopes! While his bowling wasn't spot on, and neither was Cal's fielding, their batting was brilliant, and they set the stage to show that we were in with a definite chance in this match, and had there been top order stability (which is our key to winning the next 2 matches!) 289 would have been even closer a finish than expected!
They did exactly what Kallis and deVilliers had done earlier in the match. Pushing the ball around the gaps, running hard, playing the bad ball with aggression, and ensuring they were giving the lower order something to play with.
We ended up being well behind the rate, but to come 25 short, it may be a loss, but batting 2nd at Newlands under floodlight, was by no means a poor attempt.
Callum lodged his best ODI score, and is averaging a nifty 60.00 in 7 innings, and Hopes got his 2nd fifty. Well done to them for their efforts, but was a little to much for Mitchell and Brett to do out there, but another positive is that Brett opened his batting account!
So, not the result any Australian cricket supporter hoped for, but we have two matches to go, and this day game at St.George's Park is a golden opportunity - where we won last time there against the Proteas in a day game - to get to level ground and ensure that like in 2006, we are in for a down the the wire final match.
Come on Aussie, come on!
So in short, the top order still need that consistency which is currently off the radar, and it's important they give our middle order something to work with, and something for our bowlers to defend, if we are to regain that no.1 rank and silence the Proteas.