'Some people said it was dead-rubber. There's nothing dead about it,' says Aussie coach.
There is no such thing as a dead-rubber against Australia. That’s according to out-going Proteas legend Imran Tahir ahead of his final ODI for South Africa here at Old Trafford.
The Proteas may be in the departure lounge at this World Cup, and Australia assured of their semi-final place already, but much like when the All Blacks and the Springboks clash at the end of the Rugby Championship, this final round-robin World Cup clash holds gravitas.
The fact that disgraced Australian duo Steve Smith and David Warner will be facing the Proteas for the first time since serving their bans for cheating will add even further spice to the occasion.
“When we play against Australia it is always an extra boost because obviously they are known to play good cricket. They obviously give you a good fight, and that boosts everyone. We all want to do well against Australia,” Tahir, who is retiring from the 50-overs format, said.
“Previous records show that we are the team that beat Australia most – more than any other team (even) in Australia. When you know you playing against top opposition, you have to come up with your “A-game”, otherwise, you are going to be on the losing side. It is always exciting playing against them.”
The Aussies will not be short of motivation either. A victory over the Proteas will solidify their position at the top of the log, allowing Aaron Finch’s team to remain in Manchester for the first semi-final on Tuesday where they will most likely face Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
Pakistan face a near-impossible challenge to dislodge the Black Caps from fourth position in their final league match against Bangladesh today. Lose and the Aussies will have to travel to Birmingham where hosts England lay in wait.
Equally, the Aussies have every reason to exact revenge over the Proteas. Where they were once the dominant force in the engaging rivalry between the two sport-loving nations, it is, in fact, South Africa that holds the upper-hand over the last decade.
With this at the back of the mind, proudly Australian coach Justin Langer is certainly not letting his charges ease up.
“For this game, some people said it was a dead-rubber. There’s nothing dead about it,” the former Aussie Test opener stressed. “There’s no way we’ll ever get complacent. Not with what’s happened the last 12 months.
“We’re playing good cricket, so we want to continue the momentum of winning going forward. That’s really important for us.”