It says a lot that SA beat Australia in the first ODI in Perth on Sunday with significantly more ease than they were able to deal with Zimbabwe in October.
That probably speaks more to the plight of an Australia team who have now lost 10 of their 11 ODIs in 2018 rather than sudden strength in the SA ranks.
Australians will make the point that they are without David Warner and Steve Smith‚ their key one-day batsmen‚ who have been banned for ball-tampering.
South Africans will counter with the fact that Hashim Amla and JP Duminy are also missing‚ and for the far more honourable reason of injury.
The Australians were put in to bat on a lively pitch and dismissed for 152‚ their lowest total of 2018‚ in 38.1 overs and SA replied with 153/4 to win with 20.4 overs remaining.
The visitors were kickstarted by Dale Steyn‚ who beat Travis Head with the first delivery of the match‚ which screamed across the left-hander and past his off-stump‚ and took his two wickets in the space of three deliveries in his second over.
That reduced Australia to 2/4 and soon they were 3/8 and‚ 23 overs after that‚ 89/7. It was only when Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc got together to share 33 for the ninth wicket that Australia’s innings did not look like careering off the rails. No 5 Alex Carey was eighth out for 33 off 71 balls, and Coulter-Nile clipped his 34 off 31. No-one else made more than 15. Steyn took 2/18 from seven overs and Lungi Ngidi‚ his new-ball partner‚ bowled three maidens in his return of 2/26 from 8.1. Imran Tahir and Andile Phehlukwayo got stuck into the middle and lower to share five wickets.
It was a matter of how well SA would win‚ not if‚ but their batting against Zimbabwe was alarmingly unconvincing‚ and they needed to put that right.
Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks provided much of the answer to that question in an opening stand of 94. De Kock‚ hammered seven fours in his 40-ball 47 while it took Hendricks 74 deliveries for his 44.
Then Aiden Markram bossed most of what was left of the game by drilling 36 off 32.
The South Africans and Australians will have time to think about all that‚ with the second of the three ODIs scheduled for Adelaide on Friday