South Africa are 1-0 up in their three-match ODI series against New Zealand after a perfectly-timed chase saw them home with 11 balls still to spare. From dodgy death bowling to struggling Rilee Rossouw, ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from the first match.
South Africa got their trip to the land of the Long White Cloud off to a winning start with AB de Villiers and JP Duminy timing a perfect chase, combining for an unbeaten 139-run partnership to seal the win by six wickets. New Zealand managed to recover from being 156-9 to 230 all out, thanks to a sublime individual knock from Luke Ronchi, who notched up 99 off 83.
The margin for victory could have been far bigger and, considering New Zealand were without big names like Ross Taylor and Tim Southee, South Africa will probably be feeling a bit irked that they didn’t completely crush New Zealand. Here are five talking points from the game.
A bad day at the office for Ryan McLaren
Over the last 12 months, McLaren has become one of South Africa’s most reliable bowlers. He’s taken more wickets than anybody else and has been fairly consistent. He started off with a bit of a mare in the first ODI, with his economy rate edging over 9.00 for his first three overs. Kepler Wessells suggested that McLaren “might be trying too many things”, but that is not the case. Although McLaren doesn’t always take buckets of wickets, he has been very tidy and has been able to build the pressure consistently whenever he’s bowled. He finished the first ODI with an economy rate of 7.73, only the fourth time in his last 24 bowling innings that it has been above 7.00. McLaren recovered from a dodgy start and pulled things back in the end and the issue was probably as simple as just being unfamiliar with the conditions and it simply being one of those days.
Death bowling is still a problem
McLaren wasn’t the only bowler to struggle, though. South Africa still lacks the killer punch, and allowing New Zealand to recover as much as they did showed that they are far from being the finished article for the World Cup. With nine wickets down, the run-rate accelerated to 6.80 and above for the last five overs before Dale Steyn eventually finished off the job. Completely throttling a team with bowling is something South Africa has not got right just yet. Sometimes it has seemed as if though AB de Villiers might be trying too many things with his bowlers instead of simply taking a few risks and going for the jugular when the pressure is on. In the 40th over, with New Zealand nine wickets down and Steyn still having three overs in his pocket, De Villiers took his ace out of the attack and mixed things up by trying Vernon Philander, McLaren and Imran Tahir all in quick succession. That’s when the run-rate got cranked up and it was only when Steyn returned in the 46th over that it all ended.
De Kock’s stature continues to grow
Quinton de Kock is increasingly becoming more confident behind the stumps. Not only did he take a spectacular catch and become the fastest to 50 dismissals in one-day cricket, he’s also starting to commandeer the troops. If there is a discussion about a review, De Kock is there. If the fielders need shifting around a little bit, De Kock is now starting to tell him to move. He was somewhat disappointing with the bat, but the signs are there that De Kock is going to be South Africa’s first-choice gloveman for a few years still to come.
Rilee Rossouw still not adjusting to international cricket
Rilee Rossouw is one of South Africa’s brightest young cricketing talents, but his foray into international cricket has not been too convincing. Of course, these things can take a few games to fruition and he’s not faced left-arm bowlers like Trent Boult on the domestic circuit before, but Rossouw played too many loose shots and looked unsettled for much of his innings. He’s fresh off scoring 44 and 57 for the Knights in domestic cricket, so he’s definitely not struggling for form. For a more holistic batting line-up, Rossouw makes more sense than David Miller, but if he doesn’t adjust, South Africa might have to shelve him as an option until after the World Cup.
South Africa choosing to chase
Until very recently, South Africa’s ability to chase totals in one-day cricket was a problem. Since last year, they have won just seven out of the 17 games in which they have chased totals. Four of those wins have come in 2014, so it’s something they have definitely improved on. Despite early wickets and Hashim Amla’s sluggish approach in the first ODI against New Zealand, De Villiers and Duminy timed the chase perfectly and Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum described as “killing us softly”. It’s refreshing to see a South African team that doesn’t lose its cool when chasing down a target, especially the small ones. DM
South Africa beat New Zealand by 6 wickets (with 11 balls remaining)
NZ: Luke Ronchi 99; Imran Tahir 10-1-37-2
SA: AB de Villiers 89*, JP Duminy 58*; Trent Boult 10-2-40-2
Photo: South African cricketer AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla (L) together during the ICC World Cup cricket match, Netherlands v South Africa, at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium, in Mohali, India, 03 March 2011. EPA/HARISH TYAGI