Rob Houwing

Duminy is no one-hit wonder

2011-01-26 09:15
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing

If you Google “Difficult second album syndrome” there are at least 54 000 results, so clearly plenty of people acknowledge the existence of the phenomenon ... why, some even offer it a reverential “DSAS” abbreviation.

In a nutshell, it is when a band or solo artist bursts onto the scene with a lauded, profound maiden offering – and then battles like hell to produce even a half-decent follow-up.

This being a sports column, I will desist from venturing any musical examples.

But it is tempting to relate the occurrence in a cricketing context to the situation of JP Duminy, who had been around a bit beforehand, it is true, but really made a first major name for himself on South Africa’s momentous tour of Australia some two years ago.

His Test- and series-turning innings of 166 at Melbourne fully warrants its spots in the pantheon of great innings for the country, while he also contributed hugely to rubbing salt in Aussie home wounds that summer through triumph in the one-day series there as well.

Saddled with the predictable, oppressive weight of follow-up expectation, we all know that the little left-hander’s next southern hemisphere season (2009/10) instead turned into a near-disaster for him, across the international codes – thus his five-star “first album” had been haplessly succeeded by a two-star dud second, if you like.

Blinkered supporters, inevitably, quickly forgot about his heroics Down Under, branding him a “one-season wonder”. Stardom, they even suggested – without any really definitive evidence to back it up, mind – had gone to Duminy’s head.

More discerning cricket folk, who appreciate the time-honoured volatility of the great game, always suspected Duminy’s obvious talent would surface at the highest level once more.

And it has.

Certainly in ODIs (he’s had a period back on the Test “outside”, looking hungrily and quite forcefully in once more) the 2010/11 stats are plain to see, striking in their consistency and excellence.

Duminy has barely failed in 13 consecutive ODIs since the spring.

There have been some not outs – which is both expected and satisfying for a fellow now routinely stationed at No 5 in the order – and his lowest score upon dismissal has been the 13 when he rashly holed out to long-on in the dramatic second game against India at the Wanderers; South Africa collectively made a pig’s ear of things to lose by one run.

His scores have been 6 not out, 15 not out and 129 against Zimbabwe (he batted at No 3 in making that Benoni century, to earn him needed and productive time in the middle then), 10 not out, 54, 26, 36 and 59 not out against Pakistan in the UAE, and more recently 73, 13, 52, 71 not out and 35 against India.

For a player coming in almost exclusively at the fall of the third wicket and often with not too many overs left, that is just about as good as it gets for consistency in 50-overs cricket.

Just as pleasing has been the way Duminy responded to his rush of blood in the Bullring: by knuckling down for three meaningful scores on the trot at the key business end of the series when the Proteas came from behind to win 3-2.

It is interesting to note that he faced all of 175 balls over the course of those three knocks at Newlands, St George’s Park and SuperSport Park and only recorded six boundaries. Yet his strike rates remained excellent, especially on the first two occasions – 88 in the innings of 52 and 98 in the score of 71 not out.

Duminy is probably as good as anyone in the ODI game at present at “working the ball around from the off”, as they say, and running purposefully between the wickets.

And it is not as though he cannot bludgeon – he goes over long-on very assuredly when the ball is in the right zone for him to assault it in that manner.

If players like Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers manage to “go big” at the World Cup in the expected rosy batting conditions, the presence of someone like Duminy at the other end, towards the end of the innings, will be invaluable, and go a long way to making up for the glaring drawback of South Africa having no special power-hitter in the lower regions of the order.

For those inclined to feel that the now 26-year-old began to believe his own good press too much a couple of years back, they should take note of his statement recently that he made a very conscious effort in the latest off-season to “work on playing well against off-spin and obviously the short ball”.

Those were areas where Duminy had suddenly encountered problems during his annus horribilis, yet it seems he was mature enough to grapple with them in earnest.

India’s wily and in-form senior “offie”, Harbhajan Singh, didn’t manage to snare Duminy’s scalp during the most recent ODI series and that might be regarded as a wee sign of his renaissance against the trade, even if part-timer Rohit Sharma nominally got him out twice – once when his job was basically done.
I reckon JP Duminy’s “back”.

Might the World Cup even represent his kick-ass third album?

Rob is Sport24's chief writer

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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