Johannesburg – In another sign of international cricket’s ridiculous scheduling, South Africa must wait seven months before they can next play a One-Day International.
Compare that to India, who will play New Zealand, the Asia Cup and England before South Africa next play an ODI.
Since being hammered by Sri Lanka in July, South Africa have won seven of their last 11 ODIs, losing just three, and they appear to have created solidity at the top of the batting order – mixed with large doses of flair – while the bowling, in keeping with the last three years, is aggressive, and has variety and depth.
What they’d like to do is build on the progress they’ve made in the last five weeks, but they won’t get the chance to do that until they play Zimbabwe in July. Even that tour is in doubt as Zimbabwe Cricket struggle to garner the necessary finance to host touring teams – a tour by Sri Lanka in October had to be postponed because of a lack of funds.
Nevertheless, AB de Villiers is largely unconcerned at the lengthy break because of the successful series against the world’s No1 ODI side. “If we didn’t win this series (against India), I would be really worried, but the way we’ve finished this series, and the brand of cricket we played made me very proud and I feel that we’ll get back into it straight away,” De Villiers explained. “It’s a long time, but when you finish things on a good note, it’s a bit easier to pick it up.”
According to the Future Tours Programme, South Africa will play 13 ODIs before next season’s World Cup. Besides Zimbabwe, they will also have a short tour of Australia next November where they will play five ODIs and three T20s, before hosting the West Indies for a tour that will include five ODIs too.
For now, the series win over India, which included victories by 141 runs and 134 runs has given De Villiers, the coaching staff and the selectors plenty of breathing room and the players lots of confidence.
South Africa out-batted their much-vaunted counterparts, utilising knowledge of home conditions, and confidence gained from playing against what De Villiers described as a “lighter attack than Pakistan” to thrash the Indian bowlers.
The home team’s batsmen scored five centuries in the series along with four 50s, compared to the single half-century made by India over the course of three matches. Quinton de Kock justifiably received all the plaudits for a run of scoring that barely seems plausible, for one so young, finishing the series with an aggregate of 342 runs, and becoming just the fifth player to score centuries in three consecutive ODIs.
And, while De Kock was the highlight, the benefits of the good starts provided by him and Hashim Amla – the pair sharing two opening stands of 150 plus – allowed the likes of De Villiers, JP Duminy and Dave Miller in the final game, to further pressurise the tourists with some enthralling hitting in the “death” overs. Miller’s 34-ball 56 on Wednesday night was especially pleasing for De Villiers, as it highlighted the left-hander’s potential to claim the “finisher” role.
“He’s been going through a bit of a (bad) patch, which is perfectly normal. We all go through that, and (Wednesday) was very important for him and the team. We want him around, we like his energy, his personality and the way he play his cricket, (which is) in a very positive manner,” said South Africa’s captain.
As a result of the big totals, Dale Steyn was able to lead an aggressive charge by the home team’s bowlers, who never allowed the Indians to settle. At the Wanderers, the likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all copped some nasty blows on the body, as part of an assault that was meant to open up some mental (and physical) scars, according to De Villiers. “We spoke before the first ODI saying we can make this a long tour for them if we start really well in that first ODI and nail down our authority. We did that at the Wanderers on a lively wicket.
“I felt we’ve scared a couple of their batters.”