India in SA
Biff to eclipse Hansie
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Graeme Smith will captain the Proteas’ Standard Bank ODI squad for a record 139th time at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Saturday (2.30pm start) and he will want no better celebration than to lead his side to a 2-0 advantage in the MTN ODI series with three matches to play.
He is currently level on 138 captaincies with Hansie Cronje.
The most pressing matter on Smith’s mind will be the fact that the Proteas won the first Castle Test against India by a huge margin as they did the first MTN ODI. But India bounced back strongly to level the Test series by a convincing margin in the second match and he will not want that to happen again in the 50 overs format.
“They have got to be very wary of what happened in the Test series,” commented Proteas’ batting consultant Duncan Fletcher. “I don’t think that will happen again. There seems to be a very professional attitude among this one-day squad and hopefully that lesson has been learned and they will hit India hard from ball one again and make sure they don’t get complacent at any stage of the game again.
“India is quite an experienced side although they have got young players. They know how to play out of those situations if they get into trouble. South Africa has to be very careful of that.”
Fletcher has no doubt that the Proteas are capable of matching any side in the world, particularly under their own conditions, even if the balance of the side is currently affected by the absence of star all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
“I believe South Africa matches every side as far as one-day cricket is concerned,” said Fletcher. “I am sure they haven’t been fooled by the wicket they had in Durban. They are not going to play on that type of wicket too often. But, when they get on to it, they play very, very well. That is the kind of wicket they are used to.
“When they go to India they might find the wickets a bit slower and a bit flatter and they are going to have to adapt a bit quicker. I believe they have the ability and skill to do that. That is what you expect from bowlers when they get to international level.”
The Proteas have two matches left – Saturday’s one at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium and Tuesday’s third matches in the series at Sahara Park Newlands – before the selectors finalize their squad of 15 for the ICC Cricket World Cup.
The return of Kallis obviously makes a big difference tactically because it means they will be able to field specialist batting all the way down to No. 7 without reducing their bowling options. They will still have six bowlers at Smith’s disposal.
Looking ahead to cricket on the sub-continent they also have three specialist spinners in the current squad plus two part-timers so they are in a position to juggle their bowling options as they see fit.
What is important is that they build confidence and momentum and that is the key whether they are playing on South African pitches or those on the sub-continents.
There are also further opportunities to expand their tactical flexibility in many areas, an obvious one being the use of the batting power play. The decision to take the power play just after the halfway stage paid dividends in the first ODI and there is a lot in its favour.
It led directly to another important tactical area, the changing of the ball in the 34th over which often creates opportunities for increasing the scoring rate as well.
That in turn leads into the final slog in the closing overs.
“If captains and side want to use it (the batting power play) effectively, there are many scenarios when you can use it,” commented Fletcher. “It is just up to them to have the confidence to take it on and to give the batsmen who go out to play in that power play the confidence to carry it out.”
That was certainly the case in Durban where AB de Villiers and JP Duminy scored 45 runs in 5 overs and laid the foundation for the Proteas to set a target of close to 300 runs.