JOHANNESBURG – There are several lessons to be learned for the Proteas from their loss via the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method in the fourth One-Day International against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
On the face it, the defeat is not much of a deal at all, but all this data capturing being done in the run-up to the World Cup means, assessing how the team plays in matches impacted by the weather, needs to be reflected on if the same type of errors aren’t to be made in England next year.
The UK may have experienced a nice dry summer this year, but you can be sure that at some point in the World Cup in 2019 South Africa will be involved in a match where rain will have an effect. As committed as Sri Lanka were in the field - producing their best performance in that category in this series - they still committed errors that the South Africans didn’t take sufficient advantage of. The tourists lost the match, more than the home side won it.
They did drop catches, bowled wides and laughably gave up a no-ball and a “free hit” because they didn’t have enough fielders in the circle.
Andile Phehlukwayo and Keshav Maharaj played some very poor shots late in the chase, and there will be reminders to both of them, Phehlukwayo in particular, about showing greater composure. The 22-year-old is going to be a very important player for the Proteas at the World Cup, and already in his short career has produced some thrilling late heroics with the bat to take his side home.
But he must learn that there is a time to try to crush every ball and a time when that can’t happen and picking up a single is more beneficial to his side - which was certainly the case on Wednesday.
Obviously picking on the lower order may be deemed harsh, but it is often where ODIs are won and lost. Some of the more experienced players in the top order will know they should have pushed for another two or three overs and that match would have been won - JP Duminy, in sublime form, and Hashim Amla spring to mind.
They are all valuable lessons, something the players can fall back on for the bigger occasions that await in 10 months’ time.
Stand-in skipper Quinton de Kock correctly pointed out that the closeness of the game tested everyone’s composure, and would prove beneficial for all of them.
“It was exciting, during the Tests it was one-sided and in the first three matches we beat them convincingly, to have a game like that eventually is nice for the players and especially for the fans,” he said of the encounter in which South Africa fell three runs short according to the DLS method.
“For our new guys to be part of a game like that, you can only grow from a game like this. Only good things can come out of it for us.”
Good they may be, but they can turn bad if those experiences aren’t properly utilised in the future.
The final ODI will be played in Colombo on Sunday at 11am.