Cape Town – So, was that the real Proteas finally standing
GALLERY: Proteas win 3rd ODI
AB de Villiers’s team produced a performance of commendable
intensity in all departments to seize the initiative in their five-match
one-day international series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Winning by 68 runs for the widest margin of triumph in the
series yet, South Africa have banked a 2-1 lead with two games to go.
Considering the quick turnaround to Friday’s fourth
encounter at the same venue, it is tempting to assume that the force is with
them now for an early closeout.
Or is it?
For while there was plenty of solid evidence that a dopey giant
stirred at last in this satisfying victory, it remains hazardous to venture
that the series will be done and dusted by the time the teams head back to
Sharjah for the closing game five on Monday.
The Proteas have just performed too fitfully in ODIs over
the past few months – at the very least -- to feel genuinely confident that
they can strike for an early kill before the weekend.
It is 13 matches since they could last claim the
satisfaction of back-to-back wins in the format, and it is a dubious
achievement anyway because the second triumph came against second-tier
opposition the Netherlands in Amstelveen, a once-off clash ahead of the
Champions Trophy in England and Wales.
crushing victory followed a series-clinching six-wicket win against the very
same Pakistan in the fifth ODI at Benoni during their visit to our shores last
What will be keeping Misbah-ul-Haq’s troops interested is
the fact that all of the last three bilateral series between these countries (SA
2012/13, UAE 2010/11, Pakistan 2007/08) have also been five-game affairs, and
each of them decided in the final game with the Proteas the conquerors on every
So Pakistan will be motivated to at least prolong that trend
by bringing the situation back to 2-2 on what they presumably hope might be a
gripping, “slow death” surface on Friday.
The toss may also be an important aspect because neither
team has yet won chasing in this series.
Still, the dice looks loaded against the Pakistanis now,
especially as their batting department remains fragile while South Africa’s
looked so much more accomplished in the latest match, a determined collective
drive taking them past the 250-mark for the first time in more than 10 innings.
The rather nice irony was that returning “superhero” Hashim
Amla was the only one of the top six not to get going to a significant degree,
whilst clarity seemed to emerge regarding the best stationing for players like
JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis.
The last-named player came up to the No 3 spot, where he got
the opportunity to be swiftly assertive against the faster bowlers with a
harder ball, rather than be exposed straight away to the wiles of the various
Du Plessis registered a hugely overdue, heartening
half-century – he made no bones afterwards about the fact that he went into
this fixture under “massive pressure” – and Duminy (64) seemed to confirm that
first drop is not his ideal slot; his best runs for the cause have
traditionally come after the 35- or 40-over mark in the innings so anywhere
between Nos 4-6 seems wisest bet.
Some tempering developments during the match were that Dale
Steyn, who played a priceless role in reining in a frisky Pakistan start to the
chase, and freshly ebullient leg-spinner Imran Tahir both had to go to the
treatment table for different ailments on Wednesday, the strike bowler during
the match and a hobbling Tahir afterwards.
If continuity of excellence is to be achieved in the fourth
ODI, the Proteas camp and supporters will be hoping both men have overcome any
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