Take a deep breath, count to five, exhale and then pinch yourself – or do something more serious if cricket played in colourful clothing isn’t your thing. South Africa’s tour of England is not over yet. There’s one more ODI left to play – one which South Africa will have to win to at least draw the series. The two sides head to Trent Bridge on Wednesday for one final duel before a Twenty20 series.
It feels as though the tour has dragged on forever, and predictably, it has lost some of its spark. South Africa has been unconvincing for most of the one-day matches, while England has done just enough to get over the line. But the overall quality of the cricket and pitches has been so dreadful that most people have opted to rather watch India and New Zealand slog it out in a Test match on the subcontinent.
The Proteas are 2-1 down, and while they can no longer go to the top of the rankings, they can save face by squaring the series. It’s an interesting conundrum for the brains trust, who are sitting with a squad of players who are either failing miserably or have yet to set foot on a cricket field. Tweaking with the balance of the team for crunch encounters is never a wise idea, but changes might be needed if the visitors want to finish the one-day series on a high note.
There’s been much debate about the decision to rest Jacques Kallis. His presence is, without doubt, being missed, but the big man is heading towards 37 and both Kallis and the team management want to see the all-rounder take part in the Twenty20 World Cup, which takes place in Sri Lanka in just a few weeks. Kallis and those who manage him know that he cannot play cricket forever and, if he wants to continue to perform at Test level, he needs to be managed adequately. Players of his calibre come around once in a generation and his absence has shown just how big a hole will have to be plugged once he eventually calls it a day. No player will come in and replace him, but every single team member will have to work extra hard to help fill the gap – something which hasn’t happened in the series.
Some good news for South Africa is that England might be without Jonathan Trott, who has been the anchor in both their victories. Trott was rapped on the hand during the fourth ODI and while scans have ruled out a fracture, the English team management said that a further assessment needed to be done in order to determine whether Trott would be fit to play. If he misses out, Chris Woakes could return or Jonny Bairstow could come in – both talented players who can hit the ball hard.
South Africa was certainly singing while the team was winning, but they’ve been out of tune since changing gears and, barring Hashim Amla, nobody’s really hit the right notes. Wednesday is the last chance saloon before they have to switch gears again – it’ll take a big all-round effort. DM
Photo: England’s Ian Bell (right) hits a six watched by South Africa’s AB de Villiers during the fourth one-day international cricket match at Lord’s cricket ground in London September 2, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown
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