The first match of a new series is always significant as it often sets the tone of the series. In that sense, South Africa would be extremely pleased with their six-wicket triumph in the opening one-dayer at Centurion. They batted with great confidence to overcome a challenging target set by the Aussies. And, although they did not have a great start with the ball, they actually made an excellent comeback to keep the Aussies down to under 300. Australia, on the other hand, would be disappointed that they could not build on a great start with the bat. Their bowlers too failed to make much of an impression.
South Africa would be elated, above all, with the form shown by Quinton de Kock. Ever since he announced himself on the international scene with fluent hundreds against India, he has always been looked upon as one to watch out for. And, he has played some brilliant knocks since then as well. But, those have also been interspersed by some poor returns. In the World Cup in Australia last year, he lost form and confidence as well, which would have worried the Proteas. But, de Kock has worked his way back up. When on song, he excels against both spin and pace, which was very much evident in his 178 at Centurion.
Rilee Rossouw, to his credit, supported well at the top of the innings, having been pushed there after Hashim Amla was unavailable. But, de Kock's special innings overshadowed what was a fantastic bowling effort by Andile Phehlukwayo. It was his four-for that was instrumental in keeping Australia to under 300, after they had got off to a rollicking start. And, while the Proteas will be keen to build on the Centurion win as they head to Wanderers, they will definitely hope that the other bowlers also rise to the occasion. Dale Steyn made an unimpressive return to the one-day team, and was also seen clutching his shoulders which is not great news. Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell too will need to lift their game.
Australia, batted reasonably well. But they will rue the fact that they could not score something in the region of 320-330. After the start, they got, they ideally should have. But, David Warner and Aaron Finch fell in the 40s and 50s, at a time when they should ideally have kicked on. Mitchell Marsh also got out in the 30s as Australia lost the momentum. Earlier, Steve Smith's cheap dismissal also hurt the visitors. It was only George Bailey, who has been in stupendous form of late, who held fort for the Aussies. He got unlikely support in the form of John Hastings lower down the order, who made an impressive fifty in adverse conditions.
Australia's bowling just could not stand up to de Kock on the day. As mentioned in the preview, bowling was going to be their Achilles Heel as a number of their key bowlers are missing due to injury. And, it proved to be so at Centurion as Scott Boland, Hastings, Marsh and Travis Head all failed to control the flow of runs. There were hopes from Adam Zampa considering his recent form, but he too was out of sorts. Australia will seriously need to sort out their bowling woes in case they hope to compete with the Proteas in the second ODI at Wanderers.
--By A Cricket Analyst