at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Cape Town - As good as the performance was in the opening match of the series in Bloemfontein, the next challenge for AB de Villiers’ South African team is to achieve consistency.
It was a comprehensive win in the first match, with South Africa dominating on both sides of the ball and, heading into the weekend double-header on the Highveld, they must now back up that performance.
“There’s no need to practice for four days in a row and go into the game feeling tired. We’ve got some momentum and confidence, which we will keep,” De Villiers said on Sunday.
South Africa’s recent performances in the ODI format have swayed from dominant to tentative.
The lengthy break between matches may actually be helpful in getting them to clear their minds ahead of the next two matches - the first on Friday night in Centurion followed by a day game at the Wanderers on Sunday.
The training sessions in the build-up to the first match were robust but much needed. South Africa’s strategies were clear and beautifully executed from De Villiers and Colin Ingram’s excellent third-wicket partnership through to Farhaan Behardien’s finishing of the innings.
The bowling faced plenty of scrutiny, given the absence of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and for the most part they were very good.
Pakistan’s batsmen had to be more aggressive, but the tourists were reckless in applying that aggression. Rory Kleinveldt provided control after Pakistan got off to a quick start.
Kyle Abbott struggled initially on debut, but bowled reasonably well when he came back for a second spell. Besides Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren was the other standout performer and he is showing how beneficial a run of matches can be to building confidence.
McLaren has always been a hard-working cricketer, but he could not nail down a starting spot. This season Gary Kirsten and selectors are determined that that should be the case and, following on from a very good series against New Zealand, McLaren produced another fine performance with the ball on Sunday, finishing with 3/19 from seven overs.
He is quickly becoming an important cog in the one-day team and seems to finally have gotten a grasp of what’s required at the highest level. McLaren’s task is to continue to build on that good showing through the remainder of the series.
Steyn will return when the squad meets up again on Wednesday while a further assessment of Morkel’s fitness will be done. Abbott looks the most likely to step aside for Steyn, and if Morkel is also included in the starting XI, then Lonwabo Tsotsobe may face the axe.
Pakistan has a whole lot more questions to answer. They clearly reckoned on South Africa’s batting being weak against spin and loaded their attack with slow bowlers as a result, but that plan didn’t work.
They have to find some way of including Wahab Riaz or Mohammed Irfan, while Umar Akmal will almost certainly start in place of Azad Shafiq.