Colin Bryden

Times get tough for AB

2012-09-04 14:49
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Times have suddenly got tough for AB de Villiers. The downturn in the fortunes of the South African one-day team have put pressure on the man who combines the demanding roles of captain, senior batsman and wicketkeeper.
It would be foolish to read too much into the current one-day series in England, coming as it does after a tough Test series, but the fact is that South Africa were outplayed in the third and fourth matches. The win in the second game, after the first was washed out, was primarily due to a magnificent innings of 150 by Hashim Amla, whose superb stroke play enabled South Africa to post a big enough total to put pressure on the English batsmen.
In the next two matches South Africa’s batting did not click – Amla’s scores of 43 and 45 were the team’s best in both matches – and the bowlers were unable to defend low totals. There were times when De Villiers’ body language behind the stumps betrayed his uncertainty about what to do to change the situation.
The batting has been disappointing, with De Villiers himself not making the contributions which have made him the country’s outstanding one-day batsman in recent years. The South Africans have been unable to score quickly enough after decent starts by Amla and Graeme Smith and no-one has been able to play a long innings. Part of the reason is that Dean Elgar has been given a fair chance to establish himself, batting high enough in the order to be able to face a reasonable number of deliveries. Elgar hasn’t been totally convincing but he has shown determination and will benefit from the experience, provided the selectors see him as a long-term prospect.
Nor has South Africa’s bowling been consistent enough. Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been some way short of the standard that enabled him to top the ICC one-day bowling rankings some months ago, Ryan McLaren has looked ordinary, while Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell have had frustrating lapses of control.
That leaves Dale Steyn and Robin Peterson of the front-line bowlers and they have been adequate rather than outstanding.
So, what to make of it? I can’t help recalling 2008 when South Africa were even worse in the one-dayers than in the past two games, also after a physically and emotionally draining Test series win. It strengthens my case that there should be separate Test and one-day tours between the leading nations – but the bottom line is that the results in one-day games now are less important than what is learnt from them as part of a four-year cycle which culminates in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
There is of course the final match at Trent Bridge to come - followed by three Twenty20 matches and then the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. Hopefully fortunes will change at Trent Bridge and the players will go into the T20 segment with renewed vigour, knowing that the games are valuable preparation for the world event.
As for De Villiers, he has some soul searching to do. He has kept wicket since the injury to Mark Boucher at the beginning of the tour and he has yet to reach 50 in an international match. The two facts may be linked but only the player himself can judge whether he is trying to take on too much. Heavy load or not, the team need a dominating innings from their limited overs captain.

Colin Bryden is back on his couch watching the one-day games after reporting live on the Test series in England.

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