Proteas in England
JP: Proteas’ ‘contract killer’
Cape Town - There is growing appreciation in England for the new maturity displayed by JP Duminy
for the visiting Proteas in all formats of the game.
The little left-hander only showed once more how vastly improved a player he is from the one who laboured during England’s visit to our shores in 2009/10, as he helped that established, adhesive batting factor Jacques Kallis
make light work of winning the first Twenty20 international by seven wickets at Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
It was a tonic for South African sports fans lamenting respective defeats, in roughly the same 24-hour period, for the national soccer team in Brazil (admittedly only by a 1-0 margin after a gutsy display) and the Springboks in Australia.
Circumstances were uncannily similar to those in the final one-day international at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, as the Proteas quickly lost three wickets - mostly to rash shot-selection - in pursuit of a modest target.
But they breezed home then, and did so once more, this time with Kallis and Duminy the engineers of the inspiring turnaround instead of Hashim Amla
and captain AB de Villiers.
There have been a few media and Twitter mutters about the seemingly “shock” decision to rest Amla for the first T20 game, but as De Villiers pointed out afterwards: “He’s scored so many runs ... he needed a break.”
Even the very best batsmen can fall prey to sudden staleness after golden spells (something that has previously happened to heavy-scoring Amla himself) and it is crucially important that he be in best possible mental space for the ICC World Twenty20 which is just around the corner.
So coach Gary Kirsten
and company were shrewdly keeping bigger-picture needs in mind.
Besides, the value of giving essential players time off - Kallis sat out the ODI series and had some recreational time in New York - was clearly demonstrated as the evergreen all-rounder looked sprightly in the field and then batted as though he had never left the crease.
Both he and Duminy fell just short of half-century marks in their unflustered, unbeaten knocks, which saw them coolly amass 90 runs for the fourth wicket in 15 overs to grind the hosts into the turf.
The Cricinfo commentary on the match aptly described the pair as “like cold-blooded contract killers in knocking off the runs”, adding that “the psychological blows of the summer seem to have stupefied England, as this was another heavy defeat”.
Andy Wilson of The Guardian, meanwhile, noted in his online match report: “Duminy, another low-profile but vital cog in this efficient South African touring machine, proved the perfect partner (to Kallis).”
During television commentary a little earlier, former England captain Nasser Hussain went out of his way to enthuse that “his (Duminy’s) stock has risen and risen this summer ... you can see why South Africa have stuck with him; he’s become a very organised player”.
It has also escaped few critics’ notice, during the successful overall tour for the Proteas, that Duminy, who developed a bit of a reputation as Graeme Swann’s bunny when England last visited South Africa, has not got out to the highly-touted off-spinner once yet in 2012.
Apart from looking in generally good touch during the limited-overs portion of the tour thus far, Duminy had also continued his resurgent Test form after being less than a guaranteed selection just a few months ago.
Although he did not even get to bat during the first-Test “Amla and Kallis-fest” at The Oval, the Cape Cobras favourite averaged 67.50 over four innings in the remaining two Tests at Leeds and Lord’s.
The catalyst for the Proteas’ clinical victory on Saturday was their collectively polished bowling effort in restricting England to a glaringly inadequate total inside the 120-mark despite the hosts ending with three wickets in hand – a relatively rare occurrence in this format.
Main spinners Johan Botha (anything but a cobwebbed performance after a long off-season by the ‘offie’) and Robin Peterson
gave England plenty of problems, whilst Dale Steyn
showed excellent rhythm and achieved his most economical figures yet (4-0-13-1) for a completed stint in T20 internationals.
Their stranglehold was illustrated by the home team failing to achieve a single boundary between the 9th and 18th overs.
The series moves to Old Trafford, Manchester, on Monday (19:30 SA time).*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing