Cape Town -- The party’s over now, Proteas ... turn off (or
should that be on?) the lights.
As usual, there is a pretty quick turnaround from the
victorious Test series in England to the five-match one-day international
programme: it begins in Cardiff on Friday (11:15 SA time).
A spot of indulgence since Monday, in the cases of those in
the South African camp who like their water a little stronger, is
understandable following the stirring seizure of No 1 status in the Test world.
But presumably the “babbies” remedies are already being
handed out, because with a bit of luck the more mature class of 2012 are not
intending to emulate the rather violent recession of their 2008 predecessors in
Four years ago, the Proteas also won the Test series, 2-1,
but then many of their players returned to our shores to a slightly lukewarm
reception after badly botching the ODI portion which also immediately followed
the five-day combat.
To be brutally honest, it was a shocking series, surrendered
4-0 ... and it might have been five had the fifth, at the same Sophia Gardens
venue where this year’s fixtures begin, not been abandoned through bad weather
soon after it started.
Just about all England’s wins were achieved by wide margins,
with the second at Trent Bridge (perhaps cannily by the hosts, the fifth this
time is played there!) a real nadir in South African ODI history: they were
skittled for 83 and then England waltzed to victory by 10 wickets in only 14.1
It was one of those “give me my money back” games for
disgruntled supporters, probably of both sides.
At that time, South African cricket retained a reputation
for some special form of achievement being followed by a complacent slump:
there was a repeat of the phenomenon on the Test front a few months later when,
in 2008/09, the Proteas earned a landmark series win in Australia and were
promptly thumped in the home leg of the back-to-back challenge because the
success Down Under, in many senses, had gone to their heads.
Under the Gary Kirsten regime, you sense that marked drops
in standards will not be tolerated and – to give the current players their due,
too -- are altogether less likely.
Yes, any keynote away Test series is a gruelling, draining
affair, but South Africa also have less of an excuse for fatigue than they
might have had in England in 2008 – the Test portion of that tour had been
decided over four matches, not three.
There is also the exciting possibility to consider of the second-ranked
Proteas, for whom AB de Villiers now clicks into captaincy mode, repeating
their Test series trick by also dislodging England (Alastair Cook now their
leader) from the top of the ODI pops.
The core of the unaltered Test XI of recent weeks remains on
call for the 50-overs fare, with only Alviro Petersen, Jacques Rudolph, Vernon
Philander and the deliberately rested Jacques Kallis now sidelined.
A few of the peripheral Test squad members will presumably
also be chomping at the bit to get proper game-time at last: people like
Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Robin Peterson and Albie Morkel have already been publicly
urged by Kirsten to introduce strong energy levels to the ODI side.
England have had South Africa’s measure in this form of the
game in recent years, when you consider that the last time they toured our
shores, they also nicked the ODI part 2-1.
Proteas fans will be hoping their heroes are in the correct
frame of mind this time to set that right.
August 24: 1st ODI, Cardiff
August 28: 2nd ODI, Southampton
August 31: 3rd ODI, Oval
September 2: 4th ODI, Lord’s
September 5: 5th ODI, Nottingham
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