Cape Town – Someone to stick pretty
religiously to his lines. If he can manage that in lengths too, so much the
That is who the Proteas will crave – and
perhaps not just one such runs-suppressor – in the bowling department at St
George’s Park on Saturday as they attempt to hit back fast from a rain-affected
defeat to England, by 39 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method, in the first
one-day international in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
South Africa were just about still in the
high-scoring game when the heavens opened on the drought-stricken city, with
sublime century-maker Quinton de Kock still at the wicket on a career-best 138
off 96 balls.
But as Mother Nature intervened, even the
most diehard of Proteas supporters would have been hard-pressed to suggest with
any great conviction that the hosts were probably “robbed”.
England had their noses quite well in front
and had looked the more collectively smart, disciplined and balanced unit over
the course of the 83.3 overs that were contested at Mangaung Oval, including
blitzing 399 for nine in their full 50 overs with influential contributions from
just about everyone in the top six.
Jos Buttler was the one to cash in most
profitably as he strode to a ton of his own on a majestic day at the crease for
the respective wicketkeeper/batsmen.
His surname may always carry the suspicion
that it is misspelt, but perhaps that double ‘t’ in the middle only emphasises
his turbo qualities; this was his second successive ODI century after a
withering 116 not out at a strike rate of 223 against Pakistan in Dubai in
South Africa should bank as some comfort,
heading for the Friendly City, the fact that they managed to be competitive in
reply without, on this occasion, an innings of any substance from either of
their long-time big two – captain AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
De Villiers, it should also be said,
perished unselfishly to a brilliant boundary catch by the irrepressible Ben
Stokes at a time when the weather-related tempest was building menacingly and
they were trying to get ahead of the D/L requirement; I still don’t believe we
should fret too deeply about his current lack of runs for his country.
De Kock’s searing, incomplete innings was
deemed worthy enough to secure the man-of-the-match award, even if it
inevitably seems a little hollow whenever it goes to a member of a losing side.
He is one of those rare batsmen capable of
not only making but sometimes crucially changing a shot selection decision with
a split second’s notice, and some of his boundaries were quite jaw-dropping in
the decisiveness and audacity with which they were engineered.
The 23-year-old also served another
reminder that once you allow him past 50, there is every chance he will also
advance to three figures – he now has nine centuries from 53 innings in the
format, and only been dismissed for a score somewhere between 50 and 100 on
The Proteas’ demise in this fixture was
primarily down to an unacceptably expensive outing from every member of their
attack, as England revelled in their inconsistencies.
De Villiers was diplomatic – it may not
have been the case behind closed dressing room doors, of course – about the
troubles of his bowling arsenal in the immediate post-match TV interview,
saying only that they would “need to adapt to conditions earlier” in Saturday’s
Once again there was fallibility in South
Africa’s fifth-bowler area, one shared by partial all-rounders Farhaan
Behardien and the increasingly embattled JP Duminy – they leaked 93 runs
between them across their 10-over allocation – but perhaps you should not be
too severe on such players when the frontline four are experiencing deep angst
The Proteas must try to introduce a calm,
controlling seamer to their plans as quickly as they can (Marchant de Lange may
be lucky to see further service in PE), and in that regard will be hoping that
Kyle Abbott is fit enough to make the cut after his hamstring problems.
That may be a long shot, given the mere
three-day turnaround from a Bloemfontein game he was ruled out of, and perhaps
the Dolphins man is a more realistic bet for game three at Centurion next
Keep in mind also that SA presently cannot
summon any of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Albie Morkel or Wayne Parnell to
the cause for injury-related reasons.
Instead the 20-year-old pace phenomenon
Kagiso Rabada – rested for the first match, and don’t savage the team
management for that bigger-picture move – may be tasked with riding in to the
rescue this weekend.
He may still lack significant experience,
but “KG” shows a wisdom and composure beyond his years and seems one attractive
candidate for helping to shut the worrisome sluice-gates ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing