After a week dominated by headlines about the Australian cricket cultural review we had a chance to return the actual game when Australia played South Africa in the first match of the 3 game one day series. The game was also Aaron Finch’s first as the official team captain – and Australia were absolutely demolished.
The home side batted first at the new Optus Stadium in Perth, and completely collapsed. Australia managed a paltry 152 before being bowled out, and the Proteas comfortably sailed to victory with 6 wickets and 20 overs to spare.
A pair of bizarre decisions from the new captain started off both innings. First, after his opening partner Travis Head was dismissed for one and next man up D’Arcy Short went for a duck, Finch refused to review an LBW call against him – and replays revealed that the dismissal would have been overturned.
In the second innings Finch handed the new ball to Nathan Coulter-Nile rather than specialist opening bowler Mitch Starc, who took at least one early wicket in all four Pakistani innings in the recent test series. Coulter-Nile was smashed in his first over, leaking 15 runs and being quickly replaced by Starc.
There were few bright spots for Australia in the limp display, although Coulter-Nile’s batting (he top scored for Australia with 34) was one of them. Alex Carey reached 33, in a sign that he will be the one-day wicketkeeper for a long time to come – and the heir apparent to Test keeper and Captain Tim Paine.
Marcus Stoinis took 3 wickets, with Coulter-Nile grabbing the other. The bowling was actually not bad, apart from Coulter-Nile’s opening over, with South Africa taking 30 overs to reach the limp target – although given the result was not in doubt they may have been keeping their powder dry.
Australia will need to have more spine in their batting for the next 2 tests, and their World Cup defence is in absolute disarray. Australia are currently World Champions, but have also lost 17 of their last 19 matches – and will not get their two best batsmen back until just before they try and defend the title next year.