Johannesburg - The Proteas have been pretty potent when playing in pink over the last few years.
They have three wins from three matches when decked out in pink. Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock have shared five centuries between them in those games. The Proteas managed totals of 343, 358 and 439, and are very proud of their unbeaten record for an occasion when awareness about breast cancer shares a platform with their usual deeds with bat and ball.
South Africa need to be wary of England, however. On this tour, the visitors have enjoyed playing the party-poopers and nothing would give them greater pleasure than to spoil South African cricket’s most colourful event.
The Proteas need only recall how motivated they were back in 2009 to beat Australia on “Australia Day” in Adelaide to have an idea of how much England will want to leave the spectators moaning and groaning into their pink drinks this evening.
Seven years ago, South Africa were 2-1 up – just as England are in this five-match ODI series – and they annihilated the Australians in front of a packed house on their national day. The bars in Adelaide were later strangely closed, preventing lengthy celebrations.
One doesn’t expect Johannesburg social establishments to be as inconsiderate – not on a Friday night – but there is a warning from their own history that AB de Villiers’ team should heed.
The team head into today’s match in good fettle. Tuesday’s win at Centurion boosted spirits following a “flat” performance in Port Elizabeth.
One of the main attributes required to play at the Wanderers is to get used to the speed at which the match goes. The pitch is quick, assisting stroke-play, the outfield is fast and, of course, the thin Highveld air allows the ball to fly distances it wouldn’t at the coast.
In addition, for today’s match there’s a very short boundary towards the eastern side of the field – the strip seems to be the same as the one used for the famous “438” game.
“Look, you’re trying to limit the boundary balls,” said Kyle Abbott. “It’s an obvious thing to say, but out here even shots that aren’t well-timed can go for four or six. It’s quite challenging.”
“The key for us will be to compete in every over. If it does get away from us in an over, even if that is the result of a loose shot, it’s still important that we close out that over and fight for a good result and keep it to maybe a 10-run over and not a 15 or 20 one that can change a game.”
The limits as far as scoring have always been stretched at the Bullring. With the conditions, allied to the way in which modern batsmen play, it would come as no surprise should one or both of these teams go passed 400 today.
“It’s just how the game has evolved with T20 cricket having played its part,” said Joe Root. “We thought we had a decent total the other night but they chased it down so comfortably and made it look as though it was 50 runs short.”
After picking up just the three wickets at Centurion, England is set to bolster their bowling by including Stuart Broad for Chris Jordan.
That won’t significantly weaken their batting, though, with the openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales, along with Root and Ben Stokes, all in excellent form.
Despite the depth of England’s batting lineup, Abbott feels that after, three matches, the Proteas now have the measure of their opponents. “We’ve done the research and I think we know, that if we execute well we can keep them quiet,” he said.
“The other night, although they scored 300, we never felt like they got away from us at any stage. They were scoring at six an over, but there were never many spikes in their scoring rate.” - Cape Times