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
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
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
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