South Africa has continued its poor run of form against Sri Lanka. They might have broken their 19-year duck with one victory there on Friday, but the Proteas have been over-reliant on individual performances instead of clicking as a unit. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points after the fourth ODI.
South Africa was, once again, comprehensively outplayed by Sri Lanka in their one-day series. The Proteas succumbed to a crushing eight-wicket loss, with 36 balls still remaining. That hands series honours to Sri Lanka with one match still remaining. Despite having the advantage of batting first, the Proteas squandered that as the middle order continued to underperform and the bowlers looked completely out of sorts.
Barring Hashim Amla and JP Duminy’s efforts, South Africa was quite average. The post-mortem could probably go on for the length of the internet, but we’ve kept it down to five top talking points.
The myth of batting first in Sri Lanka
There is a theory that batting first in Sri Lanka is advantageous. Anybody who watched the first three one-day internationals might that this is gospel. The statistics disagree, though.
Out of all the one-dayers played in the country, the side batting first has only won 119 times, while the side fielding first has won 120 times. Sri Lanka themselves have won batting first 34 times and fielding first 27 times. Of course, in the last instance, batting first was an advantage, but the Proteas managed to wreck it with some miserable batting, barring two players.
Sri Lanka not only blew that myth out of the water by completing the highest successful chase at Pallakele, they found where it landed and spat on it too.
The value of experience
When it comes to playing under pressure, the importance of experience cannot be underestimated. Sri Lanka was under the cosh, even though South Africa gifted them a collapse. Their top three, though, hold over 1,000 caps between them. South Africa’s top three have just 181.
Experience will always trump the novices. With a new combination at the top of the South African batting order, with Alviro Petersen making way for fit-again Hashim Amla, it was always going to be scratchy at the start. While Amla did produce the goods, Quinton De Kock continued to struggle at the highest level. The idea of blooding the youngster by throwing him into the deep end is quaint, but he first needs to learn how to build an innings. A stint with the A-team playing long form cricket will serve him much better than a baptism by fire on an island in the subcontinent.
AB de Villiers’ captaincy
AB de Villiers is an incredible cricketer, but he is not a leader of men. Even when not behind the stumps, he doesn’t seem to have the tactical nous to marshal troops and be innovative when it’s needed. He finds himself in the difficult position of playing with quite a few players who just aren’t quite as good as him, but he still doesn’t seem to know to get the best out of what he’s got. Simple things like how he uses his bowlers, his field settings and, lest we forget, his over rates, don’t bode well for his future as SA’s skipper. A prime example on Sunday was his persistence with bowlers who just weren’t doing the job when SA was desperate for a wicket. Sri Lanka was cruising, with just one wicket down. Morne Morkel, who had looked threatening early on, still had four overs in the bag. Instead of taking a gamble and bringing back his ace, De Villiers persisted with passive spin. Morkel only returned in the 37th over, but the horse had bolted by then. He eventually got a breakthrough, dismissing Sangakkara in the 42nd over, when it hardly mattered.
Batting Duminy at three
JP Duminy almost single handily saved South Africa from a public flogging on Sunday. His promotion to number three seems to suit him well. It’s only been a few games, but he looks like he’s made that spot his own. A selfless 97, sheperding the ineptitude of the rest of the batting order, Duminy’s approach was sublime. Batting at three gives him time to settle into his natural, more attacking game.
The importance of consistency
The extras column hasn’t been South Africa’s friend lately. The bowlers have struggled, both in Tests and in the shorter format, to keep things tight. They’ve been able to get away with it on the Test circuit because of their dominance overall. In the one-day format, though, it’s a glaring shortcoming. The only extras conceded by Sri Lanka were four byes. South Africa’s extras column read: 2lb, 17wds, 1 nb. Morne Morkel bowled seven of those wides all on his own. That, along with a nagging no ball problem, is something which has plagued the seamer before. The problem had briefly vanished after South Africa’s tour of Australian in 2008, but it’s back and begging for some attention. As a whole, the bowling unit has been poor in their execution. Allan Donald has now been with the side for long enough to know better and to have fixed such issues. Time to ask a few questions about how the bowling coach is managing his troops.
South Africa 238 (48.4 ov)
Hashim Amla 77 (71), JP Duminy 97 (121); Lasith Malinga 9-0-52-3, Ajantha Mendis 9.4-0-51-4
Sri Lanka 239/2 (44.0 ov)
Tillakaratne Dilshan 115* (130), Kumar Sangkkara 91 (101); Morne Morkel 10-1-62-1, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 7-0-48-1
Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets (with 36 balls remaining) DM
Photo: Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of South Africa’s Robin Peterson during the second One Day International match in Colombo July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte