Proteas seek Amstelveen fizz

2013-05-28 21:30
Proteas (AFP)
Cape Town – There is likely to be no messing around from AB de Villiers’s South Africa side when they tackle the Netherlands at Amstelveen on Friday (11:00 SA time).

Not only has the match been granted official one-day international status, making it the first clash of that nature between the two outside of World Cups, but it is one of only two opportunities for the Proteas to hit their straps before the opening ICC Champions Trophy match against India at Cardiff next Thursday.

The other is a non-ODI warm-up against group rivals Pakistan at The Oval on Monday.

So with time not exactly on their side to become an efficient fighting machine for the relatively short, intense tournament, the South Africans will want to brush off their out-of-season cobwebs pretty fast in the two assignments ahead of the main event.

Some of their ranks have been in action at the just-finished Indian Premier League, but key players like Hashim Amla and JP Duminy (the last-named coming off a particularly lengthy layoff through injury) will hope for good crease time over the next few days to get rhythm back.

It will be interesting to see what route coach Gary Kirsten and company take in the two lead-ups: will they attempt to settle on an intended “first team” as rapidly as possible from the 15-man party, or will they try to give everybody a gallop to have as many match-sharp customers as possible at their call?

Without such vastly experienced batsmen as Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith at their disposal, it may be important for the batting line-up, especially, to become reasonably settled and find necessary synergy.

Especially given the fickle early-summer conditions they will experience in the UK, the bowling arsenal may be a tad more flexible: one game may see a prodigiously seaming track under cloud cover, and the next a drying, sun-bathed one that turns a fair bit.

Nevertheless, expect a spirited SA quest to get plenty of tactical ducks in a row when the Dutch minnows are faced.

The Proteas have comfortably won two prior meetings at World Cups, including the Caribbean one in 2007 when Herschelle Gibbs hit luckless leg-spinner Daan van Bunge for six sixes in a row.

But perhaps someone will quietly nudge them, in a bid to alleviate complacency, with a reminder that a “Netherlands XI” did humiliate a Hansie Cronje-led South Africa by nine wickets at The Hague at the end of the gruelling 1994 tour of England.

Fortunately it was an unofficial international meeting, and with strong artificial flavours: it had ironically been agreed in advance that the homesick tourists would bat first to try to drag out the game – instead the South Africans were the ones reeling at 87 for seven at one stage! – and when they took to the field in defence of a humble total, the Dutch frowned on Fanie de Villiers bowling an early bouncer that was somehow deemed not in the spirit of the occasion.

The Netherlands are much fairer game in that department these days, with a lot more first-class-type experience as they compete in the English county-level Yorkshire Bank 40 competition.

On Monday they lost by eight wickets to Kent at Tunbridge Wells, despite posting a very decent 249 for five in their 40 overs after taking first strike, so it would seem they have bigger problems in the bowling than batting department at present.

The Proteas will feel as if they are playing compatriots when they examine the surnames of the possible Dutch openers, Pretoria-born former Northerns player Stephan Myburgh and Michael Swart, although the latter is actually Perth-born.

Van Bunge is still in the Dutch mix, which may light up the eyes of some Proteas stroke-players seeking to have a Gibbs-type field day at the crease should the all-rounder bowl to them.

Rusty or not, South Africa really should win comfortably, though they might also chew on the fact that in April the Dutch beat an Emerging SA team, loaded with well-known franchise players and led by Jean Symes, in a third-place playoff at a Twenty20 tournament in Windhoek.

*Considering that there is hardly a countrywide clamour for cricket in Holland yet, no host-nation television broadcaster will offer coverage, meaning SuperSport viewers must wait until Monday’s London loosener against Pakistan (11:30 SA time) for live coverage of the Proteas on SS6, CSN and SHD.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket

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