SA in New Zealand

Makeshift Proteas stay potent!

2012-03-03 12:05
Marchant de Lange and AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - They fielded a markedly bowling-heavy combination and a batting order which unusually featured both Wayne Parnell and Albie Morkel among the top three.

And yet a thoroughly professional, ruthless South Africa still proved way too strong for New Zealand at a damp Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday, completing a crushing 3-0 clean sweep of the one-day international series.

This was probably the Proteas’ most satisfying and emphatic series win in the 50-overs format since they whitewashed West Indies 5-0 in their own terrain two years back, and certainly suggests fresh progress since a mixed home summer in which they lost 2-1 to Australia and played some inconsistent cricket in beating Sri Lanka 3-2.

Mind you, the way the Lankans have been playing in the Commonwealth Bank series just across the ditch, where they have reached the finals and now knocked over the host nation three times on the trot, indicates that perhaps just beating them recently was a pretty good outcome for AB de Villiers’s side.

Easily the most pleasing aspect of South Africa’s collective ODI performance in New Zealand has been the clear-cut margin of victory on each of the trio of occasions.

The Proteas were overdue for a truly machine-like series, where they put a foot on the opposition throat and then keep it there, and this represented that phenomenon in no uncertain terms.

There appeared to be no dead-rubber malaise by the tourists in Auckland - and that despite an imbalance in composition of the XI being forced by the non-availability through injury or recuperative considerations of batsmen Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Justin Ontong.

Under the circumstances it was fairly important that the Proteas not find themselves chasing too demanding a target, and their bowlers and fielders responded magnificently by bundling the Black Caps out for their worst total of the series, 206 all out in 47 overs.

Powerful young speedster Marchant de Lange, effectively replacing the in-form Morne Morkel who is being held back for the first Test in Dunedin next week, could barely have wished for a better ODI debut, revelling in the pacy, skiddy surface and combining hostility with mostly good control during a four-wicket harvest.

It must be said that despite going wicketless, the infinitely more senior Dale Steyn helped considerably in softening up the hosts; he got some swing and is back bowling with the kind of regular, searing pace arguably not quite seen of him for two or three years.

Competition is clearly proving healthy in the spin department, too, where chief incumbent Robin Peterson maintained excellent standards despite the presence in this side also of off-spinner Johan Botha, who smartly winkled out Rob Nicol to remind of his own ongoing usefulness.

In all, the Proteas sported a rare nine possible bowling options on the day - only Hashim Amla and wicketkeeper De Villiers the exceptions! - although neither of Albie Morkel or Faf du Plessis were required to turn their arms over.

Gratifyingly for Morkel, being asked to take strike at the fall of the first wicket allowed him a timely opportunity to remind of his batting mojo, and he scored a crisp 41 which included a couple of trademark savage straight drives and pulls, before he was caught just inside the boundary as the ball apparently held up in a strong gust of wind.

The bedrock of the innings, for the second game on the trot, was Hashim Amla, now finding his own va-va-voom in New Zealand after a reasonably sluggish start and presumably looking forward to a productive Test portion of the tour.

Vanquished New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum is a combative character who probably hates losing games and series by heavy margins more than most do, yet he was particularly generous in his appraisal of the South Africans.

“In terms of one-dayers you’re as good as any team I’ve seen here in my time,” he said.

The Proteas could hardly wish for a more glowing tribute than that, could they?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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