Cape Town – South Africa’s clinical, remorseless one-day international team are well in contention to create a new, best-ever run of uninterrupted home victories in the format.
Simply, that will occur if they can make a clean sweep of the five-match series against ailing, quite probably travel-weary Sri Lanka.
The Proteas have already opened up a 2-0 lead, courtesy of wide-margin triumphs in Port Elizabeth and then again in Durban on Wednesday night when they stretched their winning trot in SA-based ODIs to 11.
Hardly helping the tourists, as they try to keep the series alive, is the fact that AB de Villiers’s charges tend to revel in the now traditional “Pink Day” fixture at the Wanderers, which looms large on Saturday (13:30 start).
South Africa’s record sequence of home victories is 13, in a period of the late Hansie Cronje’s captaincy tenure between 1995/96 and 1996/97.
Also boasting such characters then as Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Daryll Cullinan, Lance Klusener and roles for a young Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs, the side of that generation won the last five of seven ODIs against England, then seven in succession in a triangular also featuring India and Zimbabwe, and finally the first of seven clashes with Australia to make up the all-conquering 13 matches.
The golden spell did include one match that featured a no-result – but even then, India scored only 191 for nine in their 50 overs at Kingsmead and South Africa seemed well on target to win at 42 for one when rain washed out the remainder of the contest.
The current national side require wins at the Wanderers, then Newlands (next Tuesday) and Centurion (next Friday) to extend their home conquests to a record 14.
As things stand, that scenario appears a fairly rosy prospect, as summed up in SuperSport commentary by Kepler Wessels: “It is difficult to know what they (Sri Lanka) can do to really challenge South Africa.”
The embattled outfit, some of their men already bruised by the 3-0 Test series drubbing, have put together only one half-century (Kusal Mendis’s 62 at St George’s Park) across the two ODIs thus far, which goes a long way to explaining why the matches have had unexciting outcomes.
There is also a lack of genuine penetration and consistency to their attack, as they frittered away a bit of a grip early in the Durban game -- the Proteas were curtailed to a shaky-looking 108 for four just before completion of the first 20 overs of the match.
Instead the admirable Faf de Plessis played a controlled, yet always fluent innings of 105 and David Miller, again enjoying the luxury of time to settle in, built his own knock to a trademark crescendo of often towering boundaries as he posted a second consecutive unbeaten ODI century at his former home ground.
Proof of his now booming maturity and confidence is that the left-handed blaster, who increasingly also caresses the ball around intelligently, could not muster a ton in any of his first 54 innings in this format, but sports four from his last 25 turns at the crease.
There was another pleasingly rounded feel to the SA bowling effort, with Imran Tahir again hugely to the fore not only as an almost inevitable source of wickets but run-rate killer as well.
Sooner rather than later, the Proteas may secretly hope Sri Lanka offer sterner resistance before they head off for the sterner task away to New Zealand, also in five ODIs.
But it is unlikely you will see too much let-up in intensity -- or the luxury of “rotation” of certain players, maybe -- until De Villiers and company have ideally sealed the series notably swiftly in Johannesburg.
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