CAPE TOWN – After a yet another dominant performance against Bangladesh at Boland Park, South Africa completed new coach Ottis Gibson’s first bilateral ODI series win.
It was an emphatic victory that typified all that is good with Proteas cricket.
AB de Villiers was the man of the moment – back from a sabbatical and injury-enforced absence – and there were also runs for stalwarts Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock.
Inevitably, Imran Tahir was among the wickets in the Bangladesh run-chase.
However, what undoubtedly would have left Gibson with the biggest smile was the performance of youngster Andile Phehlukwayo, who claimed a career-best 4/40.
From the outset of his tenure, Gibson has made it clear that he wants the young players within the Proteas camp to take greater responsibility.
He will do the hard yards at training, but once they are out in the middle, it is up to them to grab their opportunities.
“We have been working on a few things,” Phehlukwayo said at the Cricket South Africa Audi Q5 Fast Track Challenge at Clifton Beach in Camps Bay on Thursday.
“I have learnt some new stuff from him (Gibson). I am really happy to be working with him. He obviously has a good experience, having worked with international teams. My length is a bit better, and I think have better control.”
At this early stage in Phelukwayo’s career, it is clear he is only going to get better the longer he wears the green shirt of the Proteas.
Aged just 21, he already has two four-wicket hauls and averages 44 with the bat after 19 ODIs.
That is a stellar start to an international career, but he admits, though, there is work to be done in the gym if wants to test the speed gun a bit more.
“It is an aspect that I need to work on – getting my pace up a bit. I will be working on a bit of physical stuff, try to get my pace up. It is always a good thing to gain pace,” he explained.
“But the most pleasing aspect for me is that I am continuing to learn and improving with each game.
“Cricket at such a high level, it is important that you continue to learn about yourself and your game. You always have to be willing to take in things and get better every day.”
With the focus squarely on the 2019 World Cup in the Proteas camp, and putting the plans and processes in place, a big part of that is, of course, the personnel that will undertake this challenge.
Barring injury or significant loss of form, the potent Proteas batting unit virtually chooses itself.
History, though, tells us that tournament cricket often produces curve balls at the most inopportune times – like at the 2015 World Cup, when JP Duminy suffered an injury that severely disrupted the balance of the team.
The only way teams can prepare for such scenarios is to provide fringe players, particularly youngsters, with sufficient opportunities in the build-up to any major tournament.
Aiden Markram’s call-up for the final ODI in East London on Sunday, while Amla takes a rest, is a positive step in that direction.
Markram is the form batsman in the country at the moment, and also another “Class of 2015” graduate, who along with Phehlukwayo and Kagiso Rabada won the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Dubai.
Having made their successful Test debuts together earlier this month, Phehlukwayo is excited about the prospect of his former Under-19 skipper joining the national ODI team now too.
“I think if you good enough, you’re good enough. It doesn’t depend how many games you have played. If you have an opportunity to show people, show them,” Phehlukwayo said.
“It is really good and exciting to see a group of young players putting in performances for the team. It is definitely cool. It is a good environment. You get to mingle with the guys.
“Obviously, when there are lot of senior players, they are married and are with their families, but it is always good to have a few guys to mingle with after the game.”