Proteas fans would’ve taken a series draw
CAPE TOWN – If anyone had offered Proteas fans a 1-1 drawn series against the world champions prior to a ball being bowled at Newlands in the first ODI, there would have been few who would not have graciously accepted it.
South Africa were coming off a miserable Test series where they lost three matches on the bounce and the honeymoon period of acting director of cricket Graeme Smith and the coaching staff he appointed was well and truly over. The uncertainty surrounding Faf du Plessis’ future and Kagiso Rabada’s physical and mental health also weighed heavily, prompting Smith to grant them both extended leave.
This meant a young and inexperienced team to be led by Quinton de Kock for the first time was sent out to tackle Eoin Morgan’s England side.
Perhaps it helped that England were also looking at personnel who could help them defend the 50-over title they won at Lord’s last year. That meant no Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Mark Wood for the entire ODI series, and we all know the impact Stokes and Wood had during the Test matches. But it was still a mighty task for a group of young SA players finding their way in international cricket. The Proteas’ victory achieved at Newlands was emphatic. England - with or without their big guns - have rarely been outplayed in all facets of the game like they were in Cape Town.
England still fielded the same top four that did duty in the World Cup final against New Zealand and were restricted to just 258/8 by a rookie Proteas attack.
The major upshot for SA in this bowling display was the performance of Tabraiz Shamsi. For so long in the shadows of Imran Tahir, Shamsi showed that Tahir’s shoes were not that big after all.
Shamsi is a character - just like Tahir - and has his own unique celebrations, but he is also a quality wrist-spinner who has dominated domestic cricket for a number of years now. After serving his national apprenticeship, it was imperative for the Proteas that he stepped up and took on a leading role in the bowling unit.
ODI matches are no longer won by teams that dominate powerplays. Instead, it is the teams who are able to consistently take wickets during the middle period that boast high success ratios.
The unequivocal success story of the ODI series was De Kock. Press conferences may be a death sentence to him, and while he may suffer from glossophobia - the fear of public speaking - those who judge him on that basis as a captain are simply foolish.
De Kock is a smart cricketer. Some even refer to him as “streetwise”. He understands the nuances of the game. Don’t be lulled by the “deer in the headlights” look. It is often that he is thinking of a move three steps ahead.
The way he batted in the ODI series also showed that he understands his new role. The cavalier approach was great when he had Hashim Amla, Du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller all alongside him. Now he is the senior player and needs to bat accordingly.
And for the radicals out there, De Kock hasn’t suddenly lost his edge. He simply has too many flames burning inside of him.
It is those embers that have lit up Temba Bavuma too. The little man from Langa looked the part for all the money in Cape Town and will know that he left a few runs out there in Durban and Johannesburg too, and will work hard to rectify it.
The defeat in the Pink ODI at the Wanderers was disappointing and showed that this SA ODI team remains very much a work in progress, but as I said at the beginning of this column, anybody would have taken a stalemate before a ball was bowled.@ZaahierAdams