Australia needs to win final T20 against South Africa in Hobart

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Australian coach Shelley Nitschke says she and her all-conquering team were well aware the “gap has always been closing” and Sunday’s historic T20 loss to South Africa was more proof every single match demands their absolute best.

That starts with the chance for immediate revenge in what has become a series-deciding final match in Hobart on Tuesday night with Nitschke declaring every element of the Aussie game needed to improve to ward off another defeat.

Losing to the Proteas for the first time ever in Canberra on Saturday may have shocked some, give the 25-0 record in T20 and ODI clashes between the teams Australia boasted going back to 1997, which included an Aussie win in last year’s T20 World Cup final.

But it was no surprise to Nitschke who in the past 12 months has seen her team drop a Test to India in India and narrowly hold on to the Ashes in England, losing two of three T20s.

It only reinforced for the coach the message she has to drive home to a team so used to winning, that they will no longer get things their own way.

“Particularly with the T20, they (South Africa) are a very good team,” she said.

“It’s not a fluke that they made the T20 World Cup final against us only a year or so ago.

“I don’t think we’ve ever needed reminding (of the competitiveness of women’s cricket). We’ve won some big moments in some big tournaments that have enabled us to have success in world cups.

“But I think along the way, and we’ve had some luck here and there, that the gap has always been closing; if there is one.

“It has always been a competitive game and it only gets more competitive with domestic leagues starting up around the place. We certainly know any country we come up against now that if we are not at our best then we are likely to come out on the wrong end.”

Nitschke said the Aussies, who haven’t passed 150 with the bat in either game, and allowed the visitors to chase down their 142-6 in the second match, had to be sharper with bat, ball and in the field.

“It probably goes across all facets of the game,” she said of Sunday’s result.

“I thought we left a few out there with the bat. They bowled particularly well, but we would back ourselves to probably get a few more to chase, and then we gave them a few freebies with the ball and made the job of chasing that total a bit easier than it should have been.”

The coach said she would reinforce to her players to play with “freedom” to produce their best.

“It’s about just playing a really free brand of cricket, but also being able to adapt to the conditions and what’s happening out there as well,” Nitschke said.

“(We’re) giving them that freedom to just play a style of cricket (where we) show off our skills.”