A (scary?) peep at Proteas' batting future

2018-02-04 21:34
David Miller (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Clobbered ... for a third time in a row by India at one-day international level, and with Sunday's violent reverse also representing one of South Africa's most embarrassing from any nation in the format.

If their batting was relatively anaemic in the six-wicket defeat in Durban in the first of six encounters, the latest by nine wickets around lunchtime at SuperSport Park - exactly which Einstein insisted that everyone trudge off for a meal with India two runs short of the inevitable? - saw woes at the crease only multiply by double or more.

Virat Kohli's increasingly ruthless team got home in this one with all of 177 deliveries to spare after the weakened Proteas, their batting fragility on paper so quickly and disastrously confirmed on the scoreboard, were bundled out for a Centurion record low of 118 in 32.2 overs.

Add in the eight-wicket triumph by the Indians at the Champions Trophy in England last year, and they have South Africa well and truly by the short and curlies in ODI cricket right now.

Certainly as things stand, 2-0 to the good and four to play, there is a massive chance that India will do exactly what their opponents did when they last toured that country in 2015/16: lose the Test series but dominate the limited-overs stuff.

If they claim game three at Newlands on Wednesday, meaning the series at least cannot be lost by them, the Indians will already have ensured their best bilateral ODI outcome on South African soil, after four prior series defeats here.

Such has been their dominance of the first two fixtures, however, that they also threaten to hand the hosts one of their heaviest home series defeats by anyone: the depleted Proteas will require a major turnaround just to claw one back over the course of the next few days although Newlands is at least a treasured general cricketing venue for them.

South Africa have won their last three ODIs at the ground (Sri Lanka, Australia and England) even if, that said, India's own last visit in January 2011 saw them sneak a win by two wickets.

Whilst India have made notably short shrift of chasing down low-stress targets at Kingsmead and SuperSport Park, the bowling arguably remains a source of lesser concern to the Proteas - it is difficult to make major inroads when you simply don’t have enough runs on the board to create pressure - than their batting work.

It was almost unrelentingly awful on Sunday, quite regardless of the debate that raged among observers about just how much (if at all, some were submitting) the pitch was "Indian-like" in character.

Again befuddled by the wrist-spinning wiles of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the shot-selection, patience and common sense levels of the Proteas batsmen really didn't cut the mustard, and Kohli wasn't afraid to put the boot in - in the costly absence of SA's former Affies schoolmates and kingpins AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis - in his immediate pitch-side TV interview afterwards.

He described the South African middle order as "inexperienced, a bit shaky" - probably knowing that it will hardly aid the host nation's confidence in Cape Town - although he was simply confirming what would already have seemed evident to so many.

Compounding matters at present is that the Proteas' tail is dangerously long, seasoned commentator Mike Haysman reminding that having Morne Morkel at No 9, for all his virtues in other areas, is a well less than dreamy state of affairs.

Once they get De Villiers (probably by pink-day game four at the Wanderers) and Du Plessis back - regrettably only beyond this series - SA will automatically reassume a more stable look at the crease; let's not forget that.

Another injured batsman - roughly a week or 10 days away from fitness, I understand - who thoroughly deserves to come back into the ODI picture as quickly as possible is Temba Bavuma, who sports 161 runs from just two earlier appearances in this arena.

But for more immediate needs over the next week or so, the Proteas will only continue to look dangerously short of proven (plus suitably deep) firepower with the blade, and also plagued by lack of form in several instances.

Big-hitting David Miller has eight runs from his last three ODI knocks to hint at just another of his frustrating, under-delivering patches, JP Duminy continues to retain a place only grimly despite a massive 181 caps - it indicates just how few young gems are pushing with the right force for international honours - and Quinton de Kock also still looks an inexplicably unhappy bunny at the top of the order.

With a full cupboard of premier resources hopefully available to them again well in time for the next World Cup in 2019, the Proteas should restore some sense of an even keel in the batting department over the next few months.

But what we are seeing at present is a glimpse, perhaps, of certain next-tier personnel who will have to step up more routinely when all of Messrs De Villiers, Amla, Du Plessis and Duminy call time on their Proteas careers - quite possibly simultaneously, and maybe after that English-staged CWC.

Keep in mind that a currently "spare" batsman in the ODI squad, Farhaan Behardien, who may just be asked to beef up the cause at Newlands in this mini-crisis, is also not exactly up-and-coming at 34.

As things stand, the post-2019 arsenal doesn't look enormously appealing, or widespread …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket


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