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SA favoured to beat world cricket's worst ODI team of 2018: Australia

Faf du Plessis (capt) of South Africa at the post press conference after day 4 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St Georges Park on March 12, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Faf du Plessis (capt) of South Africa at the post press conference after day 4 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St Georges Park on March 12, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

If ever there was a time to take on Australia in a one-day series‚ that time is now.

There would have been plenty of time on South Africa’s long journey eastward for three ODIs and a T20 next month for Faf du Plessis to tell his squad just that.

And there is plenty of evidence to sketch just how badly the Australians have lost their way — along with nine of their 10 ODIs this year‚ which makes 2018 officially their worst year in the format. That’s right: they’ve won only once in 10 outings.

Never before have Australia had such a lean winning percentage in a particular year‚ a stain on their history that won’t be erased‚ even if they win all three matches in their last ODI rubber of 2018.

South Africa own the best record in all one-day cricket‚ having won 368 of their 597 games — 63.85% — which only adds to the mystery of their struggle to claim a World Cup.

Australia‚ who have won five of the 11 World Cups yet played and two of the eight Champions Trophies (no one else has lifted the trophy more than once)‚ are the only other team in that league with 556 successes in 916 attempts. That’s 63.54%. No other team have cracked 55% overall‚ nevermind 60%.

But the Aussies have been a pale yellow imitation of themselves this year. Things are bad enough to be able to report that‚ of all the 18 teams who have played ODIs in 2018‚ Australia have fared the worst.

It probably doesn’t help in the ego department that their women’s team have delivered a perfect six victories in the six ODIs they have played.

Percentage-wise Hong Kong‚ Nepal and Papua New Guinea are all having a more successful year in ODIs than the struggling Australia men’s XI.

How the hell did it come to this?

It’s tempting to blame it all on the fallout from the ball-tampering saga that hit the Australians like a cyclone at Newlands in March‚ sweeping away proven ODI matchwinners Steve Smith and David Warner along with coach Darren Lehmann‚ and opening a monster can of worms on the festering culture of what the Aussies believed they had to do to win.

On top of that‚ injuries sidelined Mitchell Marsh‚ Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood from March to September and earlier this month.

Thing is‚ by March‚ Australia were already on the wrong end of the 2018 equation by a scoreline of 1-4. And they were dreadful before that: they have won just two of the 18 completed ODIs they have played since January 2017. Australia’s only opponents in the format this year have been England‚ who have been decent but not devastating in their other 14 ODIs‚ winning eight.

The Aussies have totalled 300 or more thrice in 2018 — and lost each time. But they’ve been dismissed for fewer than 250 four times‚ and while Aaron Finch has scored three centuries they have had only five hundreds in total.

Fifteen players have a better batting average than Aussie leader Shaun Marsh’s 57.60‚ and 20 a superior strike rate compared to Andrew Tye’s 118.75 — Australia’s best.

“I’ve heard a few times this team looks like it hasn’t got a plan or doesn’t know where it’s going‚” captain Tim Paine said in June. “We’ve got a clear direction; we know where we’re going.

“We know we’re a long way off the mark at the moment but the World Cup is not for 12 months. We know when we get our best team on the park‚ when we’re playing our best cricket‚ we’re going to be right in the thick of it.”

Paine can’t count: the World Cup was 11 months away in June.

And Australia are set to stop counting on Paine. Not only is he set to be axed as captain in favour of Aaron Finch in the squad to play South Africa‚ he could also lose his place to South Australia wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey. Good luck‚ Messrs Finch and Carey.

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