Hot Proteas gnaw at Oz lead
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - A seemingly
resurgent South Africa are set to make further inroads on Australia’s
once comfortable lead at the top of the ICC one-day international
All power and passion in Paarl, the Proteas showed in
East London on Saturday that they can also tick boxes for calmness and
composure as they knocked over Sri Lanka almost as convincingly as they
had done in the winelands, in many respects, to go 2-0 up in the
At least the Lankans performed several times
better with the blade than they had done in the feeble submission at
Boland Park, but it still wasn’t enough to truly stretch AB de Villiers
and his merry men.
That South Africa got home with only eight
balls to spare perhaps suggests it was a bit of a scramble to the
five-wicket win ... those who saw it will know that it really wasn’t;
the Proteas pretty much held the whip hand from the moment in the second
over of the day when Faf du Plessis’s bit of brilliance in the field
led to the run-out of luckless visiting captain Tillakaratne Dilshan for
There was arguably no other stage in the rest of the
contest - hence portions of the big Buffalo Park crowd getting just a
tad too blotto, distracted and unruly, it seemed - when Sri Lanka looked
likely winners despite their better competitiveness than in game one.
the Proteas are on track to achieve their start-out objective: put the
series to bed as quickly as possible and be in a position to give some
slightly more peripheral squad members exposure in one or two
dead-rubber games, while resting such treasured assets as Jacques Kallis
for challenges a bit further up the road.
They will be doing
this even if there is a bit of a threat - especially as Hashim Amla has
pulled out just before the midway stage to be with his wife ahead of the
imminent birth of their first child - of a dearth of senior personnel
slightly hampering their quest for a 5-0 sweep.
Just by winning
the series South Africa are assured of standalone second place on the
ICC rankings, a status they assumed after the East London triumph anyway
as they moved to a 119 rating, two points ahead of now third-placed
India on 117.
If they do whitewash the currently vulnerable
Lankans, they will leap to 123, thus making up significant ground on the
table-topping Aussies (130).
Australia are next in ODI action
when they host a triangular Commonwealth Bank series with India and Sri
Lanka from February 5 to March 8.
The Proteas play a three-match
ODI series as part of their broader tour of New Zealand, with the first
game scheduled for February 25 in Wellington.
South Africa will
be hoping to make safe the Sri Lanka series in Bloemfontein on Tuesday
(a day/night affair), and with a squad sporting three changes from the
one that did encouraging, hard yards in Paarl and East London.
Both Amla and Rory Kleinveldt (injured) drop out as enforced changes, and with Kallis also rested
as anticipated, the three additions to the mix are Alviro Petersen,
whose blistering recent first-class form could hardly be ignored, summer
Test sensation Vernon Philander and Colin Ingram.
remaining games are an ideal opportunity to test the team’s mettle
without top-order stalwarts like Kallis and Amla; the latter currently
tops the rankings for best ODI batsman worldwide and did his status no
harm at all with a typically sprightly 55 even on Saturday’s sluggish
“You could make a fortune bottling Hashim’s temperament,” commentator Mike Haysman rightly noted.
was encouraging, all the same, to see someone like JP Duminy advanced
up the order to No 4 and making the most of the opportunity, his
unbeaten 66 coupled with some tight overs of off-spin earning him the
Petersen presumably will return in
Bloemfontein straight to the starting XI, partnering his current Test
ally Graeme Smith at the top of the order - he was stationed out of
position at No 5 in the third ODI against West Indies at Dominica in May
2010, his last appearance in the format.
continues to flirt dangerously with the axe, although with Kallis and
Amla out of the picture his on-field experience will be valuable for the
remainder of the series.
The big left-hander would have been
gutted to be dismissed to an ill-timed pull after doing sound donkeywork
en route to 28 at Buffalo Park, but his opening stand of 76 with Amla
in just under 17 overs represented a vital start to the successful chase
and should have at least prevented his critics from baying only louder.
is very little wrong with the Proteas’ bowling: five of the six bowlers
used on Saturday traded in a tight, disciplined range between 4.30 and
4.83 runs per over, and even Dale Steyn, the lone ranger to travel at
six to the over, was victim of some streaky boundaries as Lankan batsmen
adopted a hoik-and-hope approach to some 145km/h thunderbolts ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing