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Cricket World Cup: Five things we learnt from Australia v South Africa

Australia have much to ponder after suffering their heaviest-ever World Cup defeat at the hands of South Africa in Lucknow, having been thumped by 134 runs by the Proteas.

Having opened their campaign with a six-wicket loss against tournament hosts India in Chennai, the Baggy Greens are 0-2 and know that they must improve to ensure that they challenge for a semi-final spot.

Skipper Pat Cummins admitted after the latest setback: "You have got to try and find a way in all conditions, that's for the bowlers try and take wickets and for the batters try and score runs."

Next up is a clash with Sri Lanka, again in Lucknow, on Monday, but here we take a look at five things we learned from the defeat to South Africa.

WhatAustralia v Sri Lanka
WhereEkana Sports City, Lucknow
When18:30 (AEST) Monday 16th October 2023
How to watchFoxtel, Kayo & 9Now
OddsAustralia 1.33, Sri Lanka 3.40

Spin causing batters all sorts of bother

While South Africa are renowned for their pace bowlers, the left-arm spin pairing of Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi took four wickets between them and also conceded just 68 runs from the 17.5 overs they bowled between them.

A similar tale unfolded in the opening loss to India, when R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja snapped up a collective five wickets and gave away 70 runs from their 20 overs, with the Aussie batters unable to find a way to get the scoreboard moving.

It is obvious that other teams will have been taking note of Australia’s struggles to put runs on the board and the Baggy Greens batters can expect to be facing plenty of spin in the games to come.

Head absence leads to imbalance

Travis Head has missed the opening losses as he recovers from a fractured left hand and his absence at the top of the order has clearly unsettled the Aussie batting line-up.

Mitch Marsh has opened alongside David Warner with little success, while Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stonis and Cameron Green have contributed little when occupying the 5-7 slots.

Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne at three and four are too similar in approach and are too passive when it comes to getting the scoreboard ticking over - remember Labuschagne was out of the ODI picture altogether not that long ago.

Solutions need to be found quickly, otherwise Head will return with hopes of a semi-final spot already fading away.

Zampa struggling to make his mark

While spin has been a major weapon for both India and South Africa, Australia have not been able to turn to their slow-bowling options to slow the run-rate and take wickets.

Leggie Adam Zampa took 0-53 against India and 1-70 against South Africa, being outperformed by part-time off-spinner Maxwell in both games, with Australia having left themselves short of spin options in the absence of the injured Ashton Agar.

Zampa had been struggling for form prior to the tournament and an aggregate 1-123 in the opening two games shows that he is still far from his best.

However, with no other frontline spinners in the Aussie squad, there is little to do other than to hope that Zampa rediscovers his mojo in the near future.

Fielding not up to scratch

Australia had opportunities to restrict the Proteas to less than the 311-7 that they eventually racked up, dropping a number of chances which contributed to the huge margin of defeat.

While a couple of the catches on offer were tough, others were much more straightforward and simply had to be taken if the Baggy Greens were going to be able to push for victory with the bat.

Teams who go all the way in such competitions are usually the ones who take their chances, so expect a few day of intensive fielding practice to be on the agenda for coach Andrew McDonald.

Technology not always the answer

Both Smith and Stoinis were given out following reviews and, while Smith’s dismissal was eventually seen to be correct after a misfire of the video footage, Stoinis can count himself pretty unlucky.

He was given out caught behind when the ball appeared to flick a glove that was no longer in contact with the bat handle, which should have resulted in a not out call.

In truth it made no difference to the final outcome in Lucknow, but no side will want to see a similar decision made at a more vital moment of the tournament.

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