Cape Town – It’s great to have two supreme batting talents
like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in your midst ... it can also be dangerous
to depend on them too much.
Both observations apply to South Africa’s one-day
international side at present.
They may very well prosper against world champions India, in
the three-match series starting at the Wanderers on Thursday (13:30), simply
because of the seldom-failing presence of these two luminaries at the crease;
they could also come a cropper if there isn’t meaningful, overdue support for
them from elsewhere in the order.
In recent times, the hot-and-cold Proteas have tended to
struggle for healthy totals when one – and certainly when both – has failed to
The plush real estate occupied by De Villiers and Amla on
the ICC batting rankings for ODIs tells a story of its own: the crowd-pleasing
captain currently stands second only to India’s Virat Kohli, whilst bearded
accumulator Amla lies fourth.
But then there is a telling gap to the next South African –
JP Duminy at 27th.
If South Africa are to rise soon from their humdrum fifth on
the team rankings, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that they
need more consistent and sometimes match-winning contributions from outside the
De Villiers-Amla combo.
Are senior statesmen Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, for
instance, going to thoroughly re-announce themselves as key figures in this
format over the next few days?
Is prodigious, but still naive talent Quinton de Kock going
to truly nail down his spot by proving his maiden century against Pakistan in
Abu Dhabi less than a month ago was no flash in the pan?
For the time being, however, high expectation will continue
to stalk De Villiers and Amla, even if they have shown over and over again that
they can rise to the weight of responsibility on their personal shoulders.
The former is in a fairly rich vein of form, reassuringly
for his team, as evidenced by his last four knocks against Pakistan in the
format, whether home or away: 115 not out in Sharjah, then 10 in Cape Town, 74
in Port Elizabeth (when he really should have stayed undefeated and seen his
troops home), and an admirably more responsible 48 not out at Centurion.
Another pointer to De Villiers possibly getting this
critical series against India off with a bang at the Bullring is that he may just
be bidding for a rare honour, if he manages to get stuck in for long enough:
achievement of a century in three successive ODIs at the Wanderers.
Last time out at the venue, he blasted 128, in last summer’s
series against the Pakistanis, when Amla was also in destructive mood with 122
and the pair posted a record ODI stand for any wicket by South Africa of 238 at
a blistering rate of 7.84 runs to the over.
On the previous Wanderers occasion, De Villiers struck 125
not out (a game where Smith also got 125) against Sri Lanka in the 2011/12
Strongly powered by those two innings, the right-hander boasts
384 runs at an average of 96 – his career average is presently 49.13 -- in
seven ODI appearances at the Bullring.
Amla, meanwhile, is showing fine signs of building up to his
own best form at a convenient time: he comes off 98 in the agonising loss by
one run to the Pakistanis in PE, which decided the series, and was then run out
for 41 in the dead-rubber Centurion fixture which South Africa won last
As much as the duo remain critical components of the
Proteas’ batting arsenal, it would be a particularly refreshing development if
bulky or decisive scores from elsewhere characterised a possible SA win in
Johannesburg on Thursday night ...
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing