Is there a more storied World Cup rivalry than South Africa versus Australia? It’s hard to argue against. In ESPNCricinfo’s top 20 Greatest ODIs, two of the top three matches were played between South Africa and Australia. Admittedly, one was not in a World Cup ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1402019/greatest-odis-no--2---south-africa-vs-australia--johannesburg--2006), but the other was the OG of World Cup ties, the 1999 Edgbaston semi-final ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1375858/greatest-odis-no--3---australia-vs-south-africa--world-cup-semi-final--birmingham--1999). Even that game had come after a thrilling encounter at Headingley ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-world-cup-1999-61046/australia-vs-south-africa-9th-super-65231/full-scorecard) four days earlier.
The two teams would meet in a World Cup semi-final again ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-world-cup-2006-07-125929/australia-vs-south-africa-2nd-semi-final-247506/full-scorecard) eight years later. South Africa were on the wrong side of history in all three of those encounters. But they exacted revenge four years ago in another famous World Cup game in Manchester ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2019-1144415/australia-vs-south-africa-45th-match-1144527/full-scorecard).
Having had a woeful 2019 campaign and missed the semi-finals, South Africa still played a huge part in shaping the outcome of the tournament by beating Australia in a high-scoring thriller to flip the semi-final matchups that would eventually produce the England-New Zealand final.
While the history has fans salivating, the 2023 teams are sick of the sight of each other. This will be the sixth ODI played between South Africa and Australia in just over a month, not to mention the three T20Is played just prior to last month’s five-match ODI series in South Africa. Australia did not show all their cards on that tour with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell all missing. Regardless, it was a series where South Africa found some irresistible form that they have carried to the opening game of the World Cup, while Australia’s wobbles have continued since blowing a 2-0 series lead in the Highveld. They have lost six of their last seven ODIs including the World Cup opener in Chennai.
South Africa’s batters are in dazzling form after piling up 428 against Sri Lanka, with Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram all blazing centuries. It is the same form they found against Australia where they made scores of 338, 416 and 315. Meanwhile, Australia’s woes have continued with both bat and ball despite the return of key personnel. In Chennai against India, the middle order collapsed from 110 for 2 to 199 all out, just as they had done regularly in South Africa. In Potchefstroom, they were 140 for 1 in the 15th over chasing 338 and were bowled out for 227 with Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi sparking the collapse. South Africa did not play two spinners in Delhi against Sri Lanka, but they would have noted the success of India’s three spinners against Australia in Chennai.
Lucknow as a surface is a complete unknown for both teams, however both are well aware of the recent dramas ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/hardik-pandya-gautam-gambhir-james-neesham-criticise-big-spinning-lucknow-pitch-1356493) surrounding the re-laid strip and the way it played during the IPL this year.
Australia LWLLL (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
South Africa WWWWL
In the spotlight – Alex Carey and Marco Jansen
Alex Carey ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/alex-carey-326434) has been a bedrock in Australia’s team since his standout performance in the 2019 World Cup and he even captained Australia in three ODIs in 2021. But his place in the side is firmly under the microscope. He did make 99 off 77 balls ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/australia-tour-of-south-africa-2023-24-1373562/south-africa-vs-australia-4th-odi-1373574/full-scorecard) in the third ODI in South Africa in a hopeless losing cause. But outside of that he has failed to reach 40 in his other 12 ODI innings over the past 12 months ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/player/326434.html?class=2;filter=advanced;orderby=start;spanmin1=1+Oct+2022;spanval1=span;template=results;type=batting;view=innings) and has only passed 15 three times. More worryingly, over the last four years, he is striking at just 85.73 ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/player/326434.html?class=2;filter=advanced;orderby=start;spanmin2=1+Aug+2019;spanval2=span;template=results;type=batting;view=innings) with the bat. With Australia’s middle order lacking firepower, and the talented and inventive Josh Inglis travelling with the squad, Carey badly needs some runs to both keep the wolves from the door and help Australia arrest their slide.
Marco Jansen ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/marco-jansen-696401) is a pivotal player in South Africa’s line-up in this World Cup and was a key contributor in their turnaround in fortunes in the recent series against Australia. While he cleared the rope in his seven-ball cameo with the bat against Sri Lanka, he was extremely expensive with the ball conceding 92 runs although he did dismiss both openers and also had some bad luck with two catches going down. But Jansen is prone to be expensive days, as he showed early in the series against Australia. His extra bounce and left-arm angle make him a weapon on fast pitches in South Africa but can make him a target on some of the slower pitches in India. His control of length and line with the new ball will be crucial against David Warner and Mitchell Marsh, in particular, given both men love to seize on anything short or wide in the powerplay.
Team news: Stoinis for Green?
Marcus Stoinis ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/marcus-stoinis-325012) was unavailable to play as a bowler in the first match in Chennai due to a hamstring issue that had kept him out of the last two ODIs against India and the two warm-up games. If he is fit to bowl, he may come in for the struggling Cameron Green ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/cameron-green-1076713). Australia are unlikely to make any other changes unless there are any queries around the fitness of the three fast bowlers given they only had three days off and there is another short turnaround before the next game against Sri Lanka.
Australia (probable XI): 1 David Warner, 2 Mitchell Marsh, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Marcus Stoinis/Cameron Green, 8 Pat Cummins (capt), 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
South Africa have no fitness concerns to speak of, only tactical decisions to make. They have to decide whether to stick with the same team that belted Sri Lanka or add a second spinner in Tabraiz Shamsi ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/tabraiz-shamsi-379145) given Australia’s weakness against spin and his recent success against them. If Shamsi were to come in, Gerald Coetzee appears the likely man to, unfortunately, miss out.
South Africa (probable XI): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 David Miller, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Gerald Coetzee/Tabraiz Shamsi, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Pitch and conditions
The pitches at the Ekana International Cricket Stadium were dug up after IPL 2023 where it was widely regarded as the worst surface in the tournament. That followed the sacking of the curator ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/lucknow-curator-sacked-for-shocker-of-a-pitch-for-second-india-nz-t20i-1356634)in the wake of a low-scoring T20I between India and New Zealand in January. There have only been four ODIs here ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/ground/1070094.html?class=2;filter=advanced;orderby=start;template=results;type=aggregate;view=innings), and the highest score batting first in those games was 253. Both pace and spin were equally successful in those games.
Stats and trivia
David Warner became the quickest player to 1000 World Cup runs, reaching the mark in his 19th innings against India. He needs just 53 runs to go past Adam Gilchrist to second all-time on Australia’s list of World Cup scorers behind Ricky Ponting.
Adam Zampa has gone wicketless in four of his 10 ODIs this year, and has only five wickets in five ODI World Cup matches in his career at an economy rate of 7.
South Africa’s middle order has the highest average (44.6) and run-rate (6.4) over the last four years in ODIs. Australia’s middle order average 29.9 at a run-rate of 5.40 over the same period.
But South Africa’s powerplay bowling is the worst in the world this year, averaging 43 with an economy rate of 6.6 in ODIs in the first 10 overs of their bowling innings. Australia’s powerplay bowlers average 40.7 but have an economy rate of 5.4.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
Tristan Stubbs ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/tristan-stubbs-595978) will keep wicket for South Africa in the opening T20I against Australia in Durban as the hosts look to rotate the gloves in the absence of the