Cape Town - Imperfections?
Boy, they remain plain to see.
and some selection-based sorting still to do that is not dissimilar to the
challenge of creating pairs in a hurry from a deep, motley basket of well-used dark
grey and black socks.
But there is
at least some - and it’s mounting - solid evidence that the current South
African one-day international team are made of agreeably stout stuff when it
comes to temperament.
Yes, that word.
It hasn’t exactly been a strong point at World Cups, where the country sports
an unfortunate history of failing to even make the final in seven attempts; you
hardly need reminding that a general saga of madcap moments, panic and
ill-judgement at key times comes to mind in explanation of SA’s hoodoo on the
there is no substitute for proving it at CWC itself (another looms ever-larger
in England in late May), but at the same time a pleasing pattern is developing
of the present nucleus of the squad demonstrating mettle at times when it matters
most – and perhaps you have to be unbendingly cynical to scoff at it.
in point was Wednesday’s crushing, committed, series-deciding victory by seven
wickets with a full 10 overs to spare over Pakistan in the fifth and final ODI
represented a major, perfectly-timed turnaround from the bumbling display by
the hosts on Pink Day at the Wanderers just three days earlier.
though, arguably saved their best in the series for last … a phenomenon that is
becoming genuinely habitual.
This was the
sixth time in a row, in bilateral-series circumstances, where they have secured
the trophy from a situation where the last fixture has been an effective final;
thus with at least some, associated extra pressures.
too, the trend has taken root entirely in the period since the last World Cup, in
2015, when South Africa were again gut-wrenching, beaten semi-finalists in
isn’t the worst beacon to cling to, considering that the Proteas continue in
broad terms to fall short of looking like frontline CWC 2019 contenders, and
will know it deep down.
It does, at
least, offer up some positive level of suggestion that Faf du Plessis and
company, assuming they are in the running for a last-four spot near the end of
the round robin-formatted tournament this year, will play suitably urgent, rational
cricket when it is most needed.
questions remain, related to both team balance and quality in varying berths,
the mere fact that South Africa have seen off (3-2) a Pakistani side who hold
the last significant ICC white-ball silverware on offer, the 2017 Champions
Trophy, is enough to tell you that they are at least a vehicle with an engine
running, rather than one stripped and rusting on a pile in a scrapyard.
say there are contradictions in his words, but Du Plessis was probably right
and right again, really, when he said immediately after the Newlands result was
secured that “a few places (for CWC) are still up for grabs” but also that
“there is definitely more clarity after this series”.
he and especially an earlier rampaging Quinton de Kock – they boast a combined
total of 230 ODI caps - were highly influential in ensuring the ease of the
Proteas’ 241-run chase-down, the game probably went a whole lot closer to
nailing down both of wholly less experienced top-order batsmen Reeza Hendricks
and Rassie van der Dussen for plane tickets to the UK.
last-named player, who pleasingly gambled with the last delivery of the 40th
over by dancing down the track, his score on 44, and walloping a straight six
to ensure an unbeaten 50 on the nose and seal the victory simultaneously, has
been a revelation in his maiden ODI series.
organised, Van der Dussen ended as the second highest run-maker, his 241 at an
average of 120.50 coming in only four innings, whereas the official player of
the series, Pakistan’s Imam-ul-Haq, needed five knocks for his 271 at 54.20.
You got a
powerful sense, considering his three half-centuries from those four
opportunities to take guard, that team-mates felt the Lions-based player might
just as easily have warranted the laurel instead, as there were several audible
calls of “Rassie, Rassie” in their celebratory midst for him to come to the
fore and hold the series trophy at the team photo opportunity.
meanwhile, may have been slightly less prolific (169 series runs at 42.25) but
certain special qualities came to the fore again as he breezed to 34 on Wednesday
and posted 61 runs for the second wicket with De Kock to ease any
home-supporter butterflies about what some commentators initially felt might be
a moderately taxing target requirement.
Pollock said of him in the SuperSport booth: “He plays classy shots (when on
song) ... there’s nothing agricultural about them.”
bowling display - superior to their patchy fielding, it must be said – was
collectively both street-smart and disciplined for the most part, with two
all-rounders competing spiritedly for regular spots, Andile Phehlukwayo and
Dwaine Pretorius, both rising to the occasion and helping aggravate one of
those “pleasant problems” in selection.
They are quite
different beasts in playing style, but maybe that’s also no bad thing?
now go into ODI-level recess until the five-match series against Sri Lanka from
early March, when we ought to see something altogether closer to - or even the
Full Monty - a “shadow World Cup squad” from them.
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