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The battle for a play-off spot continues in Canberra on Thursday
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South Africa v Australia 2nd ODI preview: Batters toil in Bloemfontein

Australia extended their winning run in South Africa to four matches by claiming the ODI series opener in Bloemfontein by three wickets, in what was an unexpectedly low-scoring affair.

Having swept the T20I series 3-0, the Baggy Greens need to win at the Mangaung Ovel again on Saturday to take a 2-0 one-day international series lead with three games still to play.

For the hosts there is a desperate need to try and find a way to get across the line, halt their run of losses and lift morale ahead of the 50-over World Cup in India.

WhatSouth Africa v Australia
WhereMangaung Oval, Bloemfontein
When21:00 (AEST) Saturday 9th September 2023
How to watchKayo, Foxtel
OddsSouth Africa 2.20, Australia 1.66

Labuschagne takes chance with both hands

Batter Marnus Labuschagne had initially missed out on selection for the tour of his native South Africa, before an injury to Steve Smith saw him earn a late call-up.

And his chance to impress arrived in the ODI series opener, when all-rounder Cameron Green was struck by a Kagiso Rabada bouncer and suffered a concussion which will see him miss the remainder of the series.

Labuschagne came to the crease as Green’s replacement and crafted an unbeaten 80 which saw his side home by three wickets after they tottered at 113-7 as they chased 223 for victory.

He was ably assisted by Ashton Agar, who contributed 48 not out to an unbroken stand of 112 for the eighth wicket which saw the Baggy Greens home with just under ten overs to spare.

It seems unlikely that Australia will tinker too much for the second game in Bloemfontein, although they will have to ponder the workload with the ball on all-rounder Marcus Stoinis with Green sidelined.

Stonis impressed in taking 2-20 on Thursday, taking the new ball alongside Josh Hazlewood, who was his usual top-class self in snaring 3-41 from his ten overs.

Australia will just hope to see their top-order batting fire and not leave them in danger of suffering a first defeat of the tour.

Bavuma's solo effort all in vain

The Proteas' batting failed to fire on Thursday as they were bowled out for 222, although skipper Temba Bavuma can be omitted from the list of failures as he made a superb unbeaten 114, carrying his bat as he hit 14 fours and a six from 142 deliveries faced.

Thirty-two from Marco Jansen was the next highest contribution and the hosts know that they will have to do better to avoid a fifth defeat in a row to Australia on this current tour.

With the ball they did better, with paceman Gerald Coetzee taking a wicket with his first ball in international cricket in his hometown and Keshav Maharaj striking in his first over in his first ODI since March.

Batters Reeza Hendricks, Tristan Stubbs and Dewald Brevis are options to change the misfiring batting line-up, while Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell and Tabraiz Shamsi could be drafted in to give the bowling attack more quality.

Hosts can draw on recent Bloemfontein success

South Africa will be desperate to end their losing run and can at least look to some success at the Mangaung Oval earlier this year.

They defeated England in two ODI contests back in January, making 298-7 in a 21-run win before reaching a thrilling 347-5 two days later thanks to another century from Bavuma and 59 not out from just 37 balls from David Miller.

South Africa and Australia have now met in five ODIs in Bloemfontein and the Baggy Greens’ success on Thursday gives them a narrow 3-2 lead across those previous meetings, although only two of those have come in the last two decades.

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