Faf du Plessis: It would be naïve to take Australia lightly

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Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, says it would be naïve to take Australia lightly in the opening One-Day International (ODI) at the Optus Stadium in Perth on Sunday. 

The home team’s recent form – they have lost 16 out of 18 matches played since January 2017 – suggests the Proteas could have the upper hand, but Du Plessis and his charges remain cautious of a proud Australian outfit.

“Whenever you get a chance to play against Australia it feels like you are playing against a good cricket team,” he said in Perth on Saturday. “When you look at whom they have in their squad at the moment, on paper there are some fantastic names on there with the ball and bat. The results haven’t been as good as what they would have liked, but from our point of view, it is important that we look at Australia as the team who are always tough to beat when there is a clash between South Africa and Australia.”

Statistical history suggests it will be an evenly contested series; Australia have won 18 and South Africa 17 of the 36 matches played since re-admission. The Proteas last won an ODI series ‘Down Under’ during the memorable tour of 2008/2009, with the Johan Botha-led squad taking a commanding 4-1 win.

The batting line-up is missing the experience of Hashim Amla and JP Duminy due to injury, but Du Plessis says this is the best opportunity for the next tier of players to test themselves against the best in the world.

READ: Steyn: We didn’t come to Australia to lose

“Similar to Australia, we have a few questions that need answering before the World Cup,” he explained. “We have quite a bit of experience but it’s the next group of players who are important at a World Cup. One, if they can potentially put their name in the hat and two, for them to gain more experience. We have gone to tournaments in the past where we have played the same team leading up and those players played a lot of cricket, but you are also one injury away from someone else having to play a game with little experience.

“The good thing is that it has given us a real opportunity to blood youngsters, to give them good game-time under the belt. When the time comes, if they do get picked for the World Cup, there are at least 20 games under their name and they have a lot more maturity when it comes to decision-making.”
Heinrich Klaasen has recovered from the shoulder niggle that kept him out of the match against the Prime Minister’s XI, which gives the selectors a fully fit squad of 15 to pick from.

“We have two really good spinners, but we also have a good seam attack,” he said of the options. “It (the team) will be about trying to balance out what we want to do according to the conditions we are given tomorrow.”

Play is scheduled to start at 11h20 local time (05h20 CAT).