South Africa’s batsmen almost clicked and their bowlers did the rest as South Africa took a 2-1 series lead against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. It wasn’t quite a pristine performance just yet, but it certainly was an improvement on the state they’ve recently been in. ANOINTETTE MULLER picks five talking points.
South Africa won the toss and batted first in the third one-day international against Pakistan. Their batsmen didn’t quite click yet, but they did manage to bat out an innings for the first time in five games. They posted 259 thanks to handy knocks from Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy.
For the first time this series, their bowlers actually had something to bowl at and while they had their blips, they still managed to dismiss Pakistan for 191 thanks to a very impressive bowling performance overall.
Compared to their last few efforts, South Africa looked much improved, and although there are a couple of areas which need tweaking, there are encouraging signs that the one-day team is finally starting to click. Here are five talking points from the third game in Abu Dhabi.
De Kock, the little engine who can
With Graeme Smith out of the side and Colin Ingram dispatched back to South Africa, Quinton de Kock was drafted in as opener. The youngster, who has all the talent in the world but needs a little bit of guidance to make the most of it, finally played an international innings of conviction. It was his highest score in ODIs and although it was still far from perfect, it proved that De Kock has something good. Patience, however, is not one of those things. Even though one-day cricket does give players the freedom to hit out when they want, when a side has lost their best batsman early on, coming out of your crease to attack the spinner isn’t exactly the best way to approach things. Patience is something De Kock will only learn in first class cricket. He’s only 20 and has played just 18 first-class games but one would hope that he will be spending his summer working on maturing his approach instead of travelling with the squad for a host of hit and giggle games. If De Kock is the future for South Africa, then he needs a route mapped out for him. Without that, he’ll just be another one of those players who could have been.
The beauty of a yorker
For anyone who enjoys bowling, there are few things so enjoyable as a perfectly executed yorker. Yet they are very rarely seen these days. The slower ball bouncer, which is effective in itself, has become a far more popular delivery. Once in a while, though, the yorker makes an appearance and when it does, it’s a sight to behold. Pakistan had clearly done their research and had plans set in place for the South Africans. The plan to South Africa’s best batsman was simple – bowl full and straight. Mohammed Irfan executed such a peach of a ball to get rid of Hashim Amla. Amla couldn’t do anything about the ball so perfectly aimed at the stumps sent him on his way. When cricket provides a solid contest between bat and ball, it’s something truly special.
South Africa not executing their plans
South Africa seem a bit lost for actually getting their plans right. Of course they have them, but there just seems to be a few hindrances in actually following them through. That all ranges from seeing through batting targets when it comes to the lower order, sticking to an actual batting order, the opening bowlers sticking to their tasks or getting the tail end out. South Africa’s lower order didn’t manage a single partnership of more than ten. There was no need for anyone to go out slogging the tail-enders should have known better. They got away with it this time, but there was probably another 50 runs in the pitch had some of them taken some responsibility. Similarly, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel tasked to open the bowling, neither bower really put the pressure on Pakistan, and that was same for those bowling at the death. The Proteas allowed Wahab Riaz and Sohail Tanvir to get away with a 61-run partnership in a game they should have killed off much sooner – it’s an area which needs quite a bit of improvement.
The flip side of Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Lonwabo Tsotsobe takes a lot of flak – some of that is deserved. His first spell on Wednesday was nothing short of dreadful. His first four overs went for 29 runs and he was far too often bowling short and wide when Pakistan were seeing the ball like a watermelon. Tsotsobe’s second spell, though, was phenomenal, with figures of 6-2-5-1. He was integral in creating pressure and getting on Pakistan’s nerves, which in turn resulted in wickets. Tsotsobe tends to have dry spells quite often. He often goes a few games on the bounce with a really poor performance before following it up with something magnificent. Tsotsobe has had a rather barren year, barring his sublime four for 22 against Sri Lanka, he’s mostly struggled. In the 19 ODIs he’s played, he’s taken 27 wickets, but his average this year is higher than it has ever been. It currently sits at 29.88. Tsotsobe seems to be a confidence bowler, though, and his comeback spell should give him the boost he needs to continue to perform exceptionally for the remainder of the year.
Three cheers for South Africa’s medical staff
No sooner than Andre Villas-Boas made the very poor decision of not substituting Hugo Lloris, despite the player being knocked out, the South African medical staff made a great decision of their own. Graeme Smith, who was struck on the head by a bouncer in the second Test, has been withdrawn from the one-day tour and will be going home after being diagnosed with “post-concussion syndrome”. Some might think that sounds like a smokescreen of sorts, but it’s not quite the case. These symptoms can sometimes take days to show up and although his MRI scan was clear, a number of symptoms had started to creep up in the days gone by. It won’t be anything serious and Smith will probably be fine, but the decision from the medical staff to take extra care deserves massive credit. In an era where head injuries are sometimes ignored and largely misunderstood, it’s good to see at least somebody is still wary of the dangers.
South Africa 259-8
JP Duminy 64 (88), Faf du Plessis 55 (60); Mohammed Irfan 10-0-46-3, Saeed Ajmal 10-1-38-2
Pakistan 191 all out (44.3 overs)
Ahmed Shezad 32 (24), Sohail Tanvir 33 (47); Imran Tahir 10-1-53-4, Morne Morkel 9-1-35-2 DM
Photo: Faf du Plessis (L) celebrates with Quinton de Kock after they won their first Twenty20 match against Sri Lanka in Colombo August 2, 2013. (REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)