Any changes to the South African starting XI for Friday’s fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka in Kimberley, will be limited to the bowling unit captain AB de Villiers said after his side had wrapped up the series, meaning another game for Graeme Smith.
Smith is being given every chance to piece together his shattered confidence with De Villiers believing the former captain still has a significant role to play in the one-day team.
“We’ve all been in poor form before, we know what it feels like. All we can do is support him. We back the man 100-percent,” De Villiers said after claiming his first series win as one-day captain due to rain in Bloemfontein.
Smith may want to ask De Villiers if he can bat at No 4, a position which seems to be where all the runs are being made – by those not named Hashim Amla of course. De Villiers, JP Duminy and on Tuesday night Faf du Plessis, have all notched up half-centuries batting in that spot in this series. It’s all part of De Villiers and the management’s decision to “mix things up a bit,” as the skipper described it.
Du Plessis, who often comes in at No 6, was grateful to have more time to build an innings, just as Duminy was in East London. How long they continue to “mix things up” remains to be seen, but as a policy it adds to the flexibility of the side and upsets any rhythm the opposition may try to garner.
Also, all three bat very well together, their speed when running between the wickets looks like it could become a crucial part of the batting strategy in the future.
“Myself, AB and JP run very hard between the wickets so we always push fielders to the limit,” said Du Plessis, who made an excellent 72 in the Bloemfontein match. “It’s nice batting with JP ... He knows where I score my ones, we are always ready to go between the wickets. If you keep the scoreboard ticking over the pressure never really gets to you.
“If you can get four or five singles every over, the odd boundary will come. As a batting unit you are never really under pressure.”
Of course throw Amla – whose wife, Summayya, gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday – and Jacques Kallis back into the mix and the batting looks even stronger. Then there is the strength in depth. Colin Ingram and Alviro Petersen may only have scored 13 and 17, respectively, in Bloemfontein, but even in those brief innings’ they showed some good touches. On the domestic scene, the likes of Dean Elgar and Richard Levi have come close to national selection.
All of which increases the pressure even more on Smith, whose scores in the series so far read: six, 28 and two.
Smith’s one-day average in 24 innings dating back to October 2010 is 27.6 and in that time he has only passed 50 three times. With the captaincy no longer offering ‘protection’ he desperately needs a score in the next two matches of the series.
“I’m expecting runs very soon,” said De Villiers. “We know he is under pressure, but that is part and parcel of the game. No-one is invincible, there is no player from Kallis, Hash, to myself that’s invincible. Poor form is around the corner for all of us and it’s a matter of getting through it.”
For the fourth match in Kimberley, Dale Steyn is likely to be rested, with Wayne Parnell, who has been with the squad throughout the series, likely to get a run. And Johan Botha should start instead of Robin Peterson.
If they are feeling bold – and there’s really no reason they shouldn’t – the selectors may give Vernon Philander, who joined the squad after the second ODI, a run instead of Morné Morkel.
One area De Villiers said they would be looking at again was their fielding. He was, surprisingly, pleased with Tuesday efforts, in spite of the four dropped catches and some miss-fields. “We missed a couple of opportunities with the run outs, but all-in-all it was a really good performance in the field.
“We have won the series, so I am not too worried about that, but we have to work on a few things, we are not a perfect cricket team, there are lots of things to work on and fielding is one of those.”
As for Sri Lanka, they just want the plane home. Tillakaratne Dilshan cut an disconsolate figure after Tuesday night’s D/L aided win for the South Africans, bemoaning his side’s misfortune while also having to deal with an injury to Mahela Jayawardene, who has hurt his back. – The Star