Cape Town – All the money in the world somehow seems unlikely to buy South Africa a one-day international victory over India just at present.
With that in mind, the unpalatable possibility exists that the Proteas, at sixes and sevens in so many ways, will be “blanked” for the first time in a bilateral home ODI series … something that would be especially humiliating if the extended hostilities do end 6-0 in the tourists’ favour.
Even in prior home series surrenders – last time was against Pakistan, 2-1 in 2013/14 -- SA have always managed to win at least one game, regardless of the duration of each series.
But time is gradually running out to claw back something against master blaster Virat Kohli and his colleagues: the Indians opened up an unassailable 3-0 lead by orchestrating another veritable drubbing (by 124 runs) at Newlands on Wednesday.
It was also the fourth time in a row they have beaten South Africa in the 50-overs format, and every time with startling ease.
The Proteas don’t lose many home series, and even more seldom by wide margins, but this one could yet turn out as bleak or worse than the 5-1 grilling from Ricky Ponting’s formidable Australians of 2001/02.
Then, and after one no-result in a scheduled seven-match series, South Africa had to eke out a tight, Duckworth/Lewis-influenced triumph in game seven at Newlands just to earn a modicum of self-respect and stave off a sweep.
Even in the highly unlikely event that Aiden Markram’s callow, under-strength outfit remarkably bounce back to share the honours at 3-3, India have already ensured they are the best ODI side from that country to visit here results-wise – they had lost every earlier bilateral series.
With Kohli in utterly imperious touch – his beautifully even-paced, calculated and dominating 160 not out at steamy Newlands added to earlier personal knocks of 112 and 46 not out – and the wrist-spinning wiles of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav further confirming widespread technical discomfort by SA batsmen against them, India hardly look like stepping off the pedal.
Yes, it is “pink day” at the Wanderers in game four on Saturday and the Proteas have a habit (unfailing thus far) of producing some of their most sizzling cricket on that specific occasion.
At the time of writing, it was also still anticipated that pivotal batsman AB de Villiers would bolster their ranks at the Bullring; he will be welcomed with special enthusiasm and relief if so.
But even the richly proven qualities of De Villiers don’t amount to any guarantee that a concerted redemption drive is likely from the Wanderers onward (there are closing games at St George’s Park and then back at SuperSport Park).
Despite the glorious -- too glorious, drought-plagued Capetonians may be quick to mutter -- weather on Wednesday, a strangely muted atmosphere was prevalent from the stands almost throughout at one of the Proteas’ most treasured strongholds.
And if there seemed little conviction among their supporters that a turnaround showing was on the brew, it appeared even less apparent in the ranks of the team, who looked too scarily at times like a SA Invitation XI who might be thrust into duty as limb-loosening fodder for opponents who have just arrived in the country.
But India have been here for a few weeks, thank you, and picking up mojo on local pitches almost by the minute; they may be regretting just a bit now that the Test series came first and they didn’t allow themselves much time to acclimatise for that.
Apart from the anticipated infusion of seasoned character De Villiers, there is relatively little else the Proteas can do personnel-wise at this juncture – no Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Dale Steyn etc – to look a notably less cowed bunch in Johannesburg and immediately onward.
They dubiously overlooked on Wednesday, once again, the rich domestic form of Farhaan Behardien, whilst another veteran figure consigned to a side-line bib on the day was Morne Morkel.
Although he may have been just about due a “rotational break” from international activity anyway, perhaps in retrospect it was naïve – especially given the general lack of street-wisdom in the present team – to have left out the lanky paceman in this time of considerable strife.
As television commentator Mike Haysman pointed out, Morkel has a sublime record from four prior ODIs at Newlands. From most recent, his bowling figures at the ground are as follows: 10-0-39-3 v Pakistan, 10-0-28-3 v India, 9-1-39-3 v England and 8.2-0-36-4 v West Indies.
Such data may do little to improve the mood of miffed Proteas fans …
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