Cape Town – While prior statistics hardly represent an
automatic entitlement to more immediate glory, you might say “it figures” that
South Africa should win the decisive fifth one-day international against New
Zealand in Auckland on Saturday.
Records show that the modern Proteas outfit – with current
captain AB de Villiers almost unfailingly to the fore at the crease -- pride
themselves in being able to clinch the deal when a bilateral series comes down
to the final fixture to decide the destiny of the spoils.
It is a situation that rather flies in the face of the
inevitable ridicule they often get for long-time failure to get it right, by
contrast, in major, business-end matches at ICC tournaments.
For when it comes to one-on-one series in recent times,
South Africa have shown that they are made of adhesive stuff in deciders.
They have won all of the last three series in which
everything has come down to the last game -- as will be the case again at Eden
Park on Saturday (03:00 SA time), with the present series tantalisingly locked
It will be a valuable exercise for both teams, with the
elevated level of pressure giving some pointers to their prospects for the
virtually unrelenting, strength-versus-strength heat they will encounter in
June during the UK-staged ICC Champions Trophy.
The most recent demonstration of the Proteas’ decisive
final-fixture relish came when they beat England in the fifth ODI at Newlands
last season, an event made all the more satisfying by the fact that it was
cherry on top of a broader comeback from 0-2 down in a five-game series.
Those setbacks in games one and two (Bloemfontein and Port
Elizabeth) also represent the last time the Proteas have lost successive ODIs –
they have played as many as 24 matches since, featuring 18 commendable
victories, one no-result and only five sporadic reverses.
That alone seems a pretty good omen, and explains why they
should have additional motivation not to add Eden Park heartache this weekend
to the unusual seven-wicket thumping they got in Hamilton on Wednesday.
Before the previously-mentioned home series against England,
South Africa also secured a particularly pleasing win in a crucial fifth ODI
against India in Mumbai, and beat the same New Zealanders they tackle on
Saturday in Durban in mid-2015 from a 1-1 situation in a shorter series.
The Black Caps, in addition, didn’t exactly cover themselves
in glory when they last played decisive game five of a series from 2-2 – they
were murdered by India in Visakhapatnam, bowled out for 79 in pursuit of a
target of 270.
So the portents in the record books look rosy enough for the
Now can they just deliver the goods in Auckland?
Here is an
abbreviated scoreboard reminder of the three, effective ‘finals’ to fairly
recent ODI series in which the Proteas have come up trumps each time – notice
the regular De Villiers batting impact:
February 14, 2016: Beat England by six wickets (Cape Town,
from 2-2). Eng 236 (A Hales 112; K Rabada 3/34, D Wiese 3/50). SA 237/5 (AB de
Villiers 101*, H Amla 59; R Topley 3/50).
October 25, 2015: Beat India by 214 runs (Mumbai, from 2-2).
SA 438/4 (F du Plessis 133, AB de Villiers 119, Q de Kock 109). Ind 224 (A
Rahane 87; K Rabada 4/41, D Steyn 3/38).
August 26, 2015: Beat New Zealand by 62 runs (Durban, from
1-1). SA 283/7 (AB de Villiers 64, M van Wyk 58; B Wheeler 3/71). NZ 221 (T
Latham 54; D Wiese 3/58, K Rabada 2/33).
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