JOHANNESBURG – South Africa didn’t bowl Sri Lanka out in the second One-Day International as they did in the first match of the series but they certainly produced a better bowling performance on Wednesday compared to last Sunday.
It may be deemed harsh to quibble when you bowl a team out in 35 overs as South Africa did in the first ODI, but they were reliant on two players in that match; Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi, who both picked up four wickets.
It was a more unified and rounded effort on Wednesday, and while no one claimed four wickets it was a bowling performance that reflected much better on the unit as a whole, than was the case last Sunday when individuals blasted out the opposition.
Most of that was down to vastly improved performances from Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder. The pair conceded 64 runs in a combined six overs in the first match when their lines and lengths went astray.
Perhaps they were trying too much given the side’s superior position in that match, allowing Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera the room to counter-attack.
The lines to all the Sri Lankan batsmen were much better on Wednesday with Mulder and Phehlukwayo attacking the the stumps more, while the short ball was utilised more judiciously. As a result Faf du Plessis could actually set fields according to the plans the pair were attempting to execute and the Sri Lankan run rate never got out of control despite Niroshan Dickwella, an attacking batsman, playing well.
Du Plessis brought them onto bowl slightly earlier than last Sunday, where Rabada’s success in picking up three early wickets and Lungi Ngidi’s relentless aggression meant the South African captain was always going to be greedy and give his two big quicks some extra overs with the new ball.
Mulder bowled the ninth and Phehlukwayo the 10th overs in the second ODI and they bowled in tandem for seven consecutive overs conceding 24 runs in that period. Sri Lanka have made no secret about targeting the pair, but neither Dickwella nor Kusal Perera could assert themselves allowing South Africa to control the innings even though they took three wickets less in the first Power Play than had been the case in the first ODI.
Afterwards Phehlukwayo did not want to get carried away with his and Mulder’s improvement saying it was reward for some hard work the pair had put in between the two matches.
“There is a lot of work that gets put in behind the scenes and lot of credit must go to the whole bowling unit,” he commented.
Phehlukwayo’s humility notwithstanding, he and Mulder for this series are crucial components for the Proteas as they provide the necessary balance to the starting XI. On paper South Africa’s batting does look thin - especially with Aiden Markram struggling at present - and the depth they provide as seven and eight is important, when combined with their responsibilities with the ball.
They have yet to be placed under pressure with the bat - and really should have been on Wednesday had Sri Lanka taken some very easy early chances - but for now the improvement they showed with the ball, will have instilled confidence not just personally but for also with Du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson.
Gibson has said he will take as many seam bowling all-rounders as possible to the World Cup - most likely an exaggeration - but with good depth in that area; including Chris Morris, Vernon Philander and Dwaine Pretorius, the duo currently in Sri Lanka have done their chances of establishing themselves in the team no harm at all.
South Africa travelled to Kandy on Thursday ahead of the third ODI on Sunday.