Gqeberha - The One-Day International series against the West Indies has painted a vivid picture of where the Proteas stand and where improvements need to be made going into their clashes with the Netherlands.
The abandoned first ODI did not aid South Africa’s quest for excellence and had it been played, there’d be a clearer understanding of where the team is ahead of the Netherlands series.
The two matches, in East London and Potchefstroom, have however answered two big questions South Africa had been posed as an ODI unit.
Quinton de Kock, as wicket-keeper and with the bat at the top of the order, is a proven success. A reminder to the fans, and perhaps to himself as well, is what is needed from him to further clarify the height of this team's ceiling.
Heading into the West Indies series, Temba Bavuma at the top of the order was viable option, more so after the century he scored against England. His hundred in East London put the final exclamation mark that he is batting where the team needs him to bat and where his game is best suited.
The No 5 position in the batting order had question marks, as if Heinrich Klaasen hadn’t done enough to own the position in the team. Perhaps his quiet nature makes him and his performances forgettable at times.
His sublime 119 unbeaten in Potch was so magnificent and full of authority that no doubts were left in that he owns the spot heading into the Netherlands series and the World Cup.
However, Aiden Markram’s No 4 position in the batting order, is rightfully under scrutiny. He is the only batter in the top six that averages under 40.
While De Kock is sitting comfortably with an average of 45, Bavuma on 50, Rassie van der Dussen on 63, Klaasen on 40 and David Miller on 41.
These numbers put South Africa alongside the best ODI teams in the world. A glance at these names on paper, Markram’s included, will send chills through any bowling attack in the world.
What still needs fine-tuning is Markram's spot. In his five years in the format, he is yet to score a century and is the only one without a three-figure score in the top six.
His development as a sixth bowling option and his leadership qualities, make him the best current option but he needs to score big runs.
On the bowling front, despite the batter-friendly strips at Buffalo Park and Senwes Park, the new ball was not best used by South Africa’s seamers.
The Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje element with the new ball was missed, but the team got to understand how far behind the other seamers are in their absence.
The series between South Africa and the Netherlands will be played on the highveld from March 31 to April 2. This will be the first time South Africa face the Dutch since their infamous exit from last year’s T20 World Cup.
The series will also be a test to this side’s ability to get the job done in a ‘go big or go home’ series, a kind of contest in which South Africa historically tends to fail.
A whitewash of the Netherlands in this series will confirm South Africa’s direct qualification to the World Cup which starts in October.