What worked and what didn't for the Proteas during their ODI series against England
With a short one-day series - shortened even further by Durban's terrible weather - against England it was hard to make any kind of definitive judgement of the Proteas in the 50-over format. However somethings worked and others didn't, Stuart Hess looks at those after the series was tied at the Wanderers
Quinton de Kock, as captain, keeper and opening bat (for now)
Mark Boucher spoke after the series on Sunday about the not wanting to judge players or tactics after just two completed matches. He’s right. And the same goes for De Kock and all the many roles he fills. But for now (just for now) this three card trick worked. De Kock quite rightly claimed the Man of the Series award; he was excellent with the bat scoring 187 runs, with a healthy strike rate of 88.62, took a couple of catches and his captaincy was imaginative and thoughtful. Boucher believes De Kock can take on all these roles for the long-term, although he will need help with the “off the field stuff.” In a year’s time, everyone will be in a better place to judge.
Temba Bavuma at no.3
Bavuma showed in the domestic white ball competitions last year, that he wasn’t deserving of being boxed as just a first class player. And while he said at the end of last season he was disappointed at not being considered a candidate for selection for the 2019 World Cup, the time in the domestic game saw him refine those aspects of his play that have allowed him to become a successful limited overs batsman. He freed himself mentally and allowed himself to be more aggressive. One aspect of his batting that stood out against England was his ability to hit gaps and his running between wickets. That kept the scoreboard ticking, putting pressure on the fielders.
Didn’t have much to do with the bat, which was a pity because he’d given himself such a good start in the last match and was then ‘sold a dummy’ by Miller, which led to him being run out. We know from his exploits for the Warriors domestically that he is a smart and tough player and probably at international level he needs a little bit of refining. That will come with time. But he provides great balance through his slow left arm bowling, something De Kock used early on at Newlands. He mixes up his pace cleverly so doesn’t allow opposing batsmen to build rhythm against him. Oh, and with the bat he hits a ball bloody hard.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
He only got to bat once in the series, but he had a lot of time in that innings but only one plan seemingly - hit the ball as hard as possible. It was a case of boundary or nothing. That’s not the way you play in those circumstances, and instead of a half century, he made just 14 at the Wanderers. He should get tips from Bavuma about hitting the ball into space and picking up singles to build his innings. We know he’s got variation with the ball, but is Phehlukwayo overdoing it? It seemed that way in Cape Town, and it would be nice if he could try and bowl six balls in a row that hit the top of off-stump. Consistency is missing for him and after 56 ODIs, he needs to find it quickly. There are players who will be challenging him for his spot.
South Africa’s middle order
Smuts’ run out in the last match meant we never got enough of an opportunity to see how he would have fared in a pressure situation, but certainly, De Kock after making a hundred in the first game and then a half-century in the third, needed more than just Dave Miller’s help. It was disappointing that there wasn’t more from Van der Dussen and Phehlukwayo with the bat. And boy can someone figure out how to play spin? It’s like the 1990s all over again. Opposing teams in the next few years are going to hone in on that weakness in South Africa’s batting.
He was dreadful in that first spell at the Wanderers and it’s clear he’s in need of game time. Had there been more options available domestically it might have been better for him to go back to the Titans and bowl more for them in the Momentum One-Day Cup, than play in the T20s. He lacked rhythm and as a result consistency. Those are both elements that come through bowling a lot, something his body will hopefully allow him to do over the next few months. A fit and firing Ngidi is critical to the Proteas’ fortunes, across all formats.