Proteas in England

Proteas' depth under scrutiny

2012-09-03 14:08
AB de Villiers (Gallo)
Cape Town – What a difference a week or so makes ... from rampant English raiders, the Proteas suddenly find themselves slightly under siege on those shores.

Only a few days ago, South African cricket could do little wrong, after clinching the Test series 2-0 and in some style, and then hammering their hosts in the first of the one-day internationals unaffected by weather to also go top of the global pile – sadly very temporarily -- in that format.

But successive defeats on patience-testing, gripping surfaces at The Oval and Lord’s have quickly altered the landscape, with salaams in the English media drying up and being replaced by more critical judgement of AB de Villiers’s limited-overs troops.

After the latest reverse on Sunday, clear-cut in its six-wicket margin with 20 balls to spare, Paul Newman of the Daily Mail, for example, suggested: “It is clear that, if you get beyond the big guns of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and (De Villiers), there is a lack of depth to South Africa’s one-day side.”

Barney Ronay of The Guardian said: “At times (in the Lord’s loss on Sunday) South Africa managed the trick of looking simultaneously both a batsman and a bowler light, the absence of Jacques Kallis having led them, for now, into the bits-and-pieces territory so long favoured by England.”

Cricinfo’s David Hopps described Dale Steyn as “South Africa’s lone bowler of menace” at Lord’s and also ventured that “the one-day side lacks the balance and certainty that the Test XI displayed so emphatically”.

So the Proteas’ egos can be said to have taken at least a minor knock of late, although there is still plenty for them to play for in the final ODI at Trent Bridge on Wednesday (15:00 SA time).

There is now no chance of regaining No 1 spot on the rankings in the short term, but as De Villiers himself pointed out in the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat, “2-2 would still be quite a good result” in the series.

Certainly South Africa bouncing back in Nottingham for that outcome would not only prevent them from losing three ODIs on the trot for the first time since 2009/10, but also signal a better series outcome in England than from the Proteas’ two prior tours in 2008 (0-4) and 2003, when they lost the final of a triangular series -- also featuring Zimbabwe -- to the host nation.

England, it is worth keeping in mind, whipped Australia 4-0 only a few weeks ago, ahead of the Proteas’ arrival for their all-formats tour.

The South African bowling has been generally steady without setting the world alight of late, but it is in the batting department where De Villiers and company need to catch the proverbial “wakeup”, having posted well sub-standard totals in both London ODIs.

Without the eternally stabilising presence of Kallis -- who is being rested for the looming ICC World Twenty20, let’s not forget – there is too much reliance on Amla for major runs upfront, whilst the batting from No 7 down still carries a sense of vulnerability if hard yards haven’t been properly done higher up the order.

Wayne Parnell has been an experimental (presumably) presence in the No 7 slot itself, and not yet managed to come to light there.

In further mitigation, the Proteas have been reluctant to expose Albie Morkel to the ODI series, as he is carrying a niggling ankle problem and, as things stand, is reportedly also being held back for use in the global T20 get-together in Sri Lanka later in the month.

Nevertheless, South Africa’s general limited-overs spirits could do with some lifting at Trent Bridge, the venue of that appalling capitulation in 2008 when the Proteas were routed for 83 and thrashed by 10 wickets.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  sa in england  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket
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