Look in the book

“There is no section for ‘notes’ on a scorecard” – that old expression was true for centuries but the invention of the internet changed it. Most website scorecards now have an icon which provides extra detail on the fall of each wicket but the general principle remains.

Australia have suffered two of their most resounding ODI defeats and they have come back-to-back. Sunday’s 142-run reverse at the Wanderers was their second heaviest to South Africa in terms of runs although considerably behind the 196-run walloping they took at Newlands 11 years ago when Makhaya Ntini’s 6-22 skittled them for an embarrassing 93 all out.

There are extenuating circumstances. No less than seven first-choice or seriously contending bowlers are back in Australia. Josh Hazlewood was rested as was Mitchell Starc until he injured himself was unavailable anyway. James Pattinson and Pat Cummins could have provided the pace so desperately and obviously missing at the Wanderers while veteran Peter Siddle’s control would have been an asset. James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter-Nile are amongst the best ODI all rounders in world cricket but they, too, are injured.

There will be footnotes written to the story of this tour but in a couple of years time nobody will be bothered to read them. Unless Steve Smith is able to rouse this squad and raise their collective performance by a massive amount, the series result could be deeply embarrassing, an indelible stain on a proud country’s ODI record.

Australia have never been whitewashed in a five-match series but, such has been the one-sided nature of the first two games, that looks to be not just a possibility but a reality.

The selection panel chose to reward the team which won so convincingly in Centurion by naming an unchanged XI against the wishes of the captain and coach who both wanted the fit-again Hashim Amla to return to the starting line-up having recovered from flu. Rilee Rossouw thus kept his place at the top of the order and made 75 to go with Friday’s 61. But Amla has 23 ODI centuries in over 6000 runs at an average of 52. He is one of the most consistent ODI batsmen of all time. Can the Proteas seriously leave him out again at Kingsmead on Wednesday? Seriously?

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