Cape Town - One innocuous game ... that's all it took for Dwaine Pretorius to have to kick his heels for half a dozen Proteas matches in a row at the World Cup.
Previously amassing a reputation as a canny, noticeably reliable - if a little short of devastating - seam-bowling figure with some quality and technical accomplishment to his batting as well, the Lions all-rounder admittedly didn't come out of the opening-match reverse to England at The Oval with much personal credit.
He just seemed an uncharacteristically muted character, for someone whose body language is normally strong, on that day, bowling seven overs for no reward at a rate of six runs to the over and then succumbing to an unnecessarily lethargic-looking run-out for one at the crease - not that he was the only sub-standard South African participant on a day that sparked a nastily more prolonged bout of team insecurity.
And then he was chopped: no activity against Bangladesh, India, West Indies, Afghanistan, New Zealand or Pakistan.
Pretorius was finally restored to the XI on Friday, for a sadly "dead" South African fixture against Sri Lanka at sun-soaked Chester-le-Street.
True to the widely-held belief that the Proteas are at their best when the pressure is minimal, they duly trounced the 'Lankans by nine wickets, powered in their chase of a humble target of 204 by the exploits of their two most senior batsmen, captain Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla, who near-effortlessly plundered an unbeaten, CWC-high (for SA) 175 runs for the second wicket.
The pronounced lack of stress to that batting requirement was down in no small measure to the earlier exploits of the 30-year-old Pretorius, who produced arguably the standout bowling showing of the problem-plagued event by one of South Africa's non-spin attack members.
Quickly getting to grips with the relative sluggishness of the surface, the tall medium-pacer - who nevertheless gives the impression that there's the odd heavy ball in there - knuckled down to a wicket-to-wicket, top-of-off-stump type of approach and seldom betrayed that formula.
He returned the third best analysis (3/25) of his now 21-match ODI career, though also the premier one for any occasion where he has sent down the maximum 10 overs in national colours.
Pretorius’s combination of rosy strike rate and wonderful economy in this encounter is eclipsed only by that memorable salvo of three for five on a greasy track against New Zealand at Wellington in early 2017, when he shaped the ball disconcertingly away from right-handers off a fullish length.
It did help, of course, that this was an overdue occasion in which pressure was plentiful from the other side as well: this was as rounded a Proteas bowling performance as has been witnessed for a while, no other frontline bowler travelling for even five to the over and several similarly enjoying productiveness in the wicket column.
Du Plessis (in understandably good, overdue humour afterwards while admitting the crushing win was "bittersweet ... doesn't feel like it means much"), revealed that the camp's brains trust had been trying spiritedly to work Pretorius back
into the side for several prior matches - a quest presumably not helped by co-bowling allrounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris often being shafts of fairly decent light amidst the more general gloom.
Against Sri Lanka, and with more out-and-out strike bowler Lungi Ngidi still not 100 percent fit through his hamstring problem, all three got a gig and it worked out illuminatingly well.
Nevertheless, there is some scope now to mull over whether the decision to banish Pretorius after the England humbling was damagingly knee-jerk in terms of the way it may have affected several, later SA tussles.
Just one high-profile figure to express some reservations over Proteas selection issues at the tournament was former captain Shaun Pollock, who opined in television commentary: "Things have been a little bit jumbled ..."
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