Cape Town – The Proteas have helped ease the pain of South Africa’s RWC 2015 semi-final defeat on Saturday by making a meritorious bit of cricket history just a day later.
Led by their almost superhuman batsman AB de Villiers, they crushed India by a rare margin of 214 runs in Mumbai on Sunday, but more importantly earned a 3-2 one-day international series triumph in doing so – the first time SA has managed this in their five bilateral attempts in that traditionally taxing country for visiting teams.
The ding-dong series was played in particularly gruelling heat and humidity and, with staple players JP Duminy and Morne Morkel missing through injury for the key last two contests, the dice had begun to seem loaded against them pulling it off.
They had also previously lost every time in three prior meetings with India at the Wankhede Stadium, so that was just another bogey spectacularly laid to rest.
This outcome closely follows their similar victory in the Twenty20 portion of the lengthy tour, so if they can prevail in the main business of the looming four-Test series, a dreamy clean sweep of the Indians in their own backyard will have occurred.
Make no mistake, that will be the most challenging task – beginning in Mohali on November 5, after a deserved squad break in touristy Goa -- but the Proteas are the No 1-ranked side in the format and do boast “previous” in that format: they beat India 2-0 away under the leadership of the late Hansie Cronje in 1999/2000.
But strictly as far as bilateral ODI series abroad are concerned, the Proteas’ achievement in the latest one ranks alongside any of their finest since they belatedly entered international activity in that landscape in 1991.
In many respects, for instance, it is as satisfying and hard-earned as the 4-1 rub-it-in hiding they gave Australia Down Under in the memorable 2008/09 summer, after Graeme Smith had led a maiden Test series win there and Johan Botha grabbed the ODI reins following Smith’s hand injury in the last Test match at Sydney.
Sunday’s decider saw South Africa produce their most ruthless showing of the previously closely-fought series, as sizzling centuries from all of De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock saw them emulate their immortal winning total of 438 against Australia at the Wanderers several years ago.
It was also the fourth time the Proteas have gone past 400 in the present calendar year, only indicating the potency of their specialist batting line-up.
De Villiers now stands firmly at the helm of the global pack for players to have reached ODI centuries in 75 or fewer deliveries – he has done this eight times, taking him two clear of recently-retired Indian smasher Virender Sehwag.
As for the baby-faced De Kock, he now joins the great Sachin Tendulkar as the only two players to have notched eight tons in the format before turning 23.
He will not get the chance to make the landmark his own, as his birthday comes on December 17 and South Africa play no further ODIs until February, during England’s tour of our shores.
The left-hander loves playing against India, as no fewer than five of his centuries have come against their bowlers: he sports 667 runs from nine knocks at an average of 74.11 so the Indians must be sick of the sight of him.
As for Du Plessis, towards the end of his personal-best ODI innings of 133 – he retired hurt in the closing stages only because it suited the overall cause to get a faster runner out in the middle – he was cramping quite violently whenever he played expansive strokes and he showed tremendous character in continuing to be both dashing and innovative until he staggered off the sultry battleground.
The Proteas’ effort in so easily defending their juggernaut total was again headed by pacemen Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, both of whom ended as leading series wicket-takers on 10 despite conditions so seldom making their craft easy.
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