'When Amla sticks around, the Proteas tend to score big'
Proteas | 22 May 2017, 4:10pm
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa prevailed by 13 runs in their warm-up fixture against Northants on Sunday, but the tourists were pushed close by the county side, which was led by a familiar face in Rory Kleinveldt.
The tourists will welcome the challenge that they were given by Rory and co, and the leadership would have also been encouraged by the flickers of form across the team.
Ultimately, of course, what happens over the next week or so matters little in the bigger scheme of things.
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Hashim Amla. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Coach Russell Domingo has already said that the England series is merely a build-up, a chance to tie up a few loose ends.
On Sunday, in making 275 for seven, the Proteas saw three, key men stand up with the bat, though no one truly kicked on.
There were also handy contributions from the evergreen Imran Tahir and the bustling Chris Morris with the ball. Both extroverts are match winners on their day.
The contrastingly calmer Hashim Amla continued his return to fluency from the IPL, meanwhile, as he fashioned a swift 59 at the top of the order.
Between him and Quinton de Kock, they hold the key to South Africa's acceleration to gargantuan totals.
When Amla sticks around, the Proteas tend to score big. De Kock, no stranger to run gluttony, fell for a seven-ball duck after his century in the first warm-up, which is probably just as well.
The tourists would hate for him to make all his runs in the preamble. Faf du Plessis and David Miller also scored half-centuries, and the latter's contribution – complete with two mighty blows onto the roof – would have pleased the dressing-room no end.
England's grounds are generally on the quaint side, and Miller's ability to massacre at the death could prove vital in the Champions Trophy. In full flow, no ground can contain him. So, the sooner he gets going, the more ominous this South African outfit will appear to its rivals.
They bat deep enough – stand in skipper JP Duminy strolled in at number nine on Sunday – but it is getting the best out of that explosive batting card that will be the challenge.
For all the hope that the Champions Trophy will provide a fair chance for bowlers, limited-overs cricket is decided by the dashers. It is as simple and as ruthless as that.
South Africa have plenty of those dashers, and they will now look to skipper AB de Villiers to find his touch during the England series. De Villiers only sparked sporadically in the IPL, so he does need time in the middle.
Him missing out in playing in the warm-up games was just a precaution, but he will be itching to have a proper go against England.
Though Domingo may have played it down, nothing expresses readiness than defeating the hosts on their patch, just before a major tournament.
South Africa have always been a team that feeds off momentum, and they will happily take the wins over the first week of their extended stay in the UK.
Those who stick around for the Test matches will be in England and Wales for just about three months. Even in one of the most accommodating countries in the world, it is a long time to spend on the road.
The one thing that does make time tick by a bit quicker is winning on a regular basis.
South Africa will look to continue with that happy habit on Wednesday, when the three-match series against England starts.
But, as we have been told, this little series is just a part of the calm, before the considerable Champions' storm hits in early June.