Australia’s World Cup preparations have been thrown into turmoil as Travis Head suffered a hand fracture during a devastating 164-run loss to South Africa at Centurion. Head’s night, and possibly his World Cup aspirations, came to an end when he retired hurt on 17 after a painful blow to his left hand by Gerald Coetzee in the fourth one-day international on Friday.
Despite trying to continue batting for two more overs, Head eventually left the field in clear discomfort. South Africa went on to level the five-match ODI series 2-2 with an emphatic victory, thanks to Heinrich Klaasen’s outstanding 174 off just 83 balls and David Miller’s unbeaten 82, propelling the hosts to a massive total of 416/5.
Despite Alex Carey’s brilliant 99-run innings, Australia never really posed a threat, getting bowled out for 252 in 34.5 overs. Their chase ended when Carey was caught behind off Kagiso Rabada, marking Australia’s second defeat by over 100 runs in three days and their second heaviest ODI loss to South Africa.
However, the real concern was the injury to key left-handed batsman Head, with the World Cup just three weeks away. David Warner and captain Mitch Marsh had already been dismissed cheaply before Head’s exit in the ninth over.
Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Stoinis, like Carey, fell victim to South Africa’s short-ball strategy, gloving catches to Quinton de Kock. Lungi Ngidi was the standout bowler for South Africa, taking four wickets for 51 runs, supported by Rabada, who claimed three wickets and took a spectacular one-handed catch to dismiss Nathan Ellis.
The real damage had been inflicted earlier, as Klaasen and Miller tore apart the Australian bowling attack, hitting a combined 19 fours and 18 sixes during their explosive 222-run fifth-wicket partnership off just 94 deliveries.
After a cautious start by openers De Kock and Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen accelerated the scoring with his 62-run knock, setting the stage for Klaasen and Miller to shine.
Klaasen’s century, achieved in just 57 balls, became the fourth fastest for South Africa, following AB de Villiers (twice) and Mark Boucher.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa had a forgettable day, conceding 113 runs without taking a wicket from his 10 overs, equalling the long-standing record previously held by former Australian pace bowler Mick Lewis (against South Africa in 2006) for the most runs conceded by a bowler in an ODI. The fifth and deciding game will take place in Johannesburg this Sunday.