Cape Town – Several slightly insecure links in the line-up tightened
nicely as South Africa muscled their way to a richly-deserved one-day
international series triumph over No 1-ranked India over the last few days.
We will never know whether the Proteas would have managed a
3-0 clean sweep as the dead-rubber final contest was cut short by rain at
Centurion on Wednesday, but not before centuries from captain AB de Villiers
and the quite sensational Quinton de Kock (he clinched a hat-trick of them) had
ensured the Indians would have to chase more than 300 for a consolation result
in their favour.
What could not be doubted at all was the startling level of
series dominance of the host nation, who dramatically put behind them the
hiccup of crashing 2-1 to Pakistan only a few days before these hostilities
South Africa do look a team for whom the pieces are coming
together once more – conveniently a year before another World Cup -- and it was
a bit of a shame that the Highveld elements conspired to prevent an opportunity
to gauge whether the bowling attack could look as frisky in the absence of
major weapons of destruction Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
But there is a good cupboard of bowling depth, an expanding
arsenal of genuinely world-class batting, and a very obvious commitment to
restoring famous old Rhodes- and Gibbs-like standards of fielding and catching
A pleasant extra string to the bow on Wednesday, not too
long before the heavens opened, was specialist finisher David Miller belting an
unbeaten 56 off only 34 deliveries, despite a concerted attempt by the Indian
bowlers to cramp his style with plenty of yorker-length deliveries.
It has been a pretty lean trot by the left-hander, who had
not gone past 50 in 12 previous innings, but he was back to his best as a
savage striker of the ball – he found gaps in the outfield very well and is a
master of the fast, flat-trajectory six – and as there aren’t too many obvious
candidates like him in the No 6 area in the order, it would have been a great relief
to the Proteas’ brains trust to see him prosper.
One department stays a thorny issue: the important No 3
At SuperSport Park, South Africa gave Henry Davids another
opportunity but he indelicately jabbed lanky Ishant Sharma to second slip for
just one as the Proteas subsided to 28 for three before the man they are
justifiably calling “Quin-Ton” and skipper De Villiers completely turned the
innings’ fortunes around.
There is probably a case for arguing that this was only
Davids’ second ODI appearance, so further chances to show his mettle should not
I see things a little differently, considering that it has
been a dreadful calendar year in limited-overs cricket broadly for him in SA
colours: to add to his ODI scores of one and seven, he has had six Twenty20
international knocks in 2013 and registered these totals: 7, 1, 7, 0, 0 and 3.
That is eight innings and an average of three.
If he was a young gun finding his way, an atmosphere of
greater patience should rightly prevail, but the Titans customer -- who usually
shines domestically, it is true – will turn 34 in a few weeks.
Under those circumstances, surely the time has come to see
whether there isn’t another De Kock-like proper investment for the future out
there? Players like Stiaan van Zyl and Rilee Rossouw quickly come to mind.
The Proteas have struggled to get really major, consistent
runs out of a No 3 in recent times: Colin Ingram has had opportunities (though
remember that his failures this year largely came as an opener, and he does
boast two ODI centuries as a No 3) and the same applies to JP Duminy.
Neither really nailed it down – Duminy looks much more
tailor-made for No 5 -- and the return to the ODI fray of the legendary Jacques
Kallis has not yet inspiringly fixed the problem either.
Frankly, the situation around 38-year-old Kallis, so
massively proven an individual over many years, seems clouded in confusion:
does he really aspire to prolonging his career in the format to another World
Cup in Australasia in 2015?
If so, withdrawing
him for the third ODI against India in order for him to “prepare for the Test
series” was an odd move, considering that he is short of high-level runs this
season – he no longer seems to play franchise cricket? – and Centurion seemed ideal
for him to knuckle down for a major knock against several bowlers he could
encounter again at the Wanderers next week.
Yes, No 3 looks a tad too unsettled for the Proteas ...
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing