Australia win the decider and take the series. The Bear remains unbeaten. Finch clubbed a few huge sixes and made Parnell look pedestrian. And Faulkner took three wickets. That is the match in a nutshell.
This is a series that most viewers are likely to forget in what is going to be Australia’s longest summer of cricket yet. Cricket Australia decided to open up the International Summer with a three match T20I series against South Africa in the hope of attracting large crowds and easing them into the summer ahead. But if the audiences are anything to go by, the public isn’t fully into cricket mode yet. Or it may just be that this series has little significance. Or interest.
There seems to be little logic in having three T20Is to be played when the focus should be on preparing for the World Cup. Whilst the Aussies do take on South Africa for five ODIs and then play India and England in a tri-series later in January, this was a series they could have done without.
Of course, from a results perspective, the home team triumphed. After being crushed in the first T20I by seven wickets, Australia bounced back strongly to win the next match by the same margin. It boiled down to the final match played at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Australia on the back of Cameron White’s sensible knock of 41* successfully chased down the target set by South Africa of 146 to win by two wickets.
Whilst TV viewership of cricket will always be high and is essentially what bankrolls the sport, people through the gate provide a good indicator towards audience interest. And in that regards, this is a series that did little to muster audience interest. For example, the third T20I in Sydney had less spectators (24,187) than the first one played in Adelaide (26,370) despite being played in a stadium with a capacity of over 80,000.
The public couldn’t be blamed for being a little confused with this series. South African stars Hashim Amla, AB de Villers, Faf du Plessies and Dale Steyn were all rested from the side. JP Duminy was named as a make-shift captain. And for Australia, they would be without the services of Warner, Johnson or Bailey.
With the number of star players missing, this series gave new names an opportunity. Ben Dunk was given a place in the squad after scoring a sensational 229* in a domestic Matador Cup match against Queensland recently. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t translate that form into T20s and his three innings in this series only yielded 39 runs. However, across both teams, there was only one fifty scored as batsmen failed to go on.
No bowler took more than three wickets in an innings, and players like Cameron Boyce and Sean Abbott who had an opportunity to improve their credentials didn’t go about setting the world on fire. Pat Cummings only took three wickets in the three matches he played in but his economy rate of less than 4.50 is a positive for Australia. Similarly, South Africa would have been impressed with Wiese and Pieterson’s performance in the final match where each bowler took three wickets.
The ODIs, which are coming up, should be a better prospect. The bigger name players will return and both sides will want to finetune their World Cup preparations. These two teams will find themselves in opposing groups in next year’s World Cup but as potential semi-final contenders, will want to ensure they maintain the psychological advantage.
They will want to use the matches to build confidence. The teams get a few days off before meeting on Friday at Perth for the start of the five-match ODI series. With more purpose and context to the upcoming series, interest should be higher and better crowds can be expected.
Published in The Indian Sun