‘ODI whitewash will leave scar on Australia’
It isn’t often that a team can say they have dominated Australia but South Africa believe they can. They inflicted a 5-0 ODI whitewash at home on Steven Smith’s side – albeit one with a depleted bowling attack – and rate themselves highly as they head to Australia for a three-Test series.
“To beat Australia the way we did, really convincingly and not giving them a sniff, will leave a bit of a scar on them mentally,” Faf du Plessis, who will captain South Africa in Australia because AB de Villiers is injured, said. “I also appreciate that a Test team is a different team, and probably a more mature team, but if we can start really well in that first Test match to remind them that we are in the same space as a Test team, we will have a really good tour.”
South Africa won their previous two Test series in Australia, but circumstances then were different to what they are now. In 2008-09 and 2012-13, they were fresh off victories in England, and while they were ranked No. 1 on their last trip to Australia, South Africa are now in fifth place after a difficult 2015-16 season.
Du Plessis was quick to point out that Australia were also not the force of old, and not just because they recently lost a Test series 3-0 in Sri Lanka.
“When I first started playing against Australia, the guys were the toughest team to play against because of their personalities. They were guys that competed by being verbal,” du Plessis said. “If you look at the Australian team now, their personalities have changed. They don’t have those aggressive guys that are at you the whole day, swearing the whole day. We play a similar brand of cricket now. We are very competitive but we respect each other’s personal space.”
Australia had never lost an ODI series 5-0 before © Gallo Images/Getty Images
That was not always the case during the five ODIs in South Africa, though it was mostly the home team driving the banter. In Port Elizabeth, Matthew Wade ran into Tabraiz Shamsi during a single and words were exchanged, while Imran Tahir laid into David Warner in Cape Town for reasons unknown to everyone. Tahir is not in the Test squad but Shamsi is and has answered du Plessis’ call to boss the opposition with body language.
South Africa are already doing that through pre-series bluster focused on the momentum they will take into the Tests. Several ODI players who are also in the Test squad, such as Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, have performed well and du Plessis believed that would boost them ahead of the Tests.
“Confidence definitely plays a role,” he said. “The most important thing for me is that the players are in form. No matter what the format, if you are in form you feel confident and that is something amazing to take over to Australia.”
Their recent performances against Australia, and the talk ahead of the team’s departure, meant South Africa had created an expectation and du Plessis tried to manage it.
“People’s expectation will be of us going there and dominating Australia again but that’s not the case. We’ve had an amazing series, which has been the highlight of a lot of our careers, but we go to Australia on a blank slate,” he said. “The guys are confident but it’s not just going in guns blazing and thinking we can dominate them. We will have to earn that right again.”
South Africa’s first Test in Australia will begin in Perth on November 3, before they travel to Hobart for the second from November 12. The final match of the series – beginning in Adelaide on November 24 – will be South Africa’s first day-night Test.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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