Up, up and away! South Africa have completed their World Cup warm-up series against the West Indies. They are packing their bags to jet off Down Under to see if they can finally rid their necks of the heavy albatross that’s been weighing them at ICC events for over two decades now. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks six things we learned.
South Africa wrapped up their five-match ODI series against the West Indies 4-1 on Wednesday and will head into the World Cup brimming with confidence. They will play a further two warm-up games on arriving in the Land of the Long White Cloud, but if their last few matches are anything to go by, they are definitely on the right track. A string of players seem to be ploughing a purple patch for multiple juicy harvests.
More often than not, though, form means very little ahead of the World Cup, but with the wealth of talent in the South African side, many will believe that this is their best chance ever of winning the Cup.
The five-match ODI series against the West Indies offered South Africa one last glimpse into where they stand heading into the tournament. For the most part, things look good. Here’s what we’ve learned:
AB de Villiers is a freak… and so is Hashim Amla
Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it’s worth mentioning again. AB de Villiers is not of this planet. His record-breaking 31-ball hundred proved as much. His batting innovation and vision is second to none and there simply isn’t a better one-day batsman in the world at the moment. The one player challenging him for that spot is Hashim Amla, who scored two fifties and two hundreds in the four matches he played during the five-match ODI series. He totalled 413 runs and averaged 206.50 and has already scored more than any other batsman in one-day cricket, despite the fact that he batted in two less innings than second leading run scorer, Tillakaratne Dilshan (397 runs in six innings).
David Miller can bat for a long time
It’s taken five years, but David Miller has finally scored his first ODI century. Far too often, Miller has thrown his wicket away cheaply, but finally proved against the West Indies that in a pressure situation, he can be the man to keep a cool head and bat on. Whether he can do this in the pressure of a World Cup only time will tell, but a least he has shown that he’s not just all hype.
Imran Tahir is one of South Africa’s best limited overs bowlers
Forget everything you know about Imran Tahir the Test player. Imran Tahir the limited overs player is a different beast. During last year’s ICC World T20, he was one of South Africa’s key bowlers. In the one-day series against the West Indies, he picked up eight wickets at an average of 14.75 and took a wicket once every 17.7 balls against the West Indies. Conditions in the World Cup might not be spinner friendly, but Tahir’s variation and his deceptive googly will come in very useful during South Africa’s World Cup campaign.
Kyle Abbott is in terrible form
For a man once hailed as South Africa’s great death bowling hope, Kyle Abbott endured a torrid series against the West Indies. With Wayne Parnell rediscovering his swing against the West Indies, it’s unlikely Abbott will play a regular part in South Africa’s World Cup campaign, but as far as strength in depth goes, he remains a massive concern. With such little game time, his form is unlikely to improve any time soon so there’s a massive weakness for South Africa in this area. The brains trust might start to wonder why they did not opt for Lonwabo Tsotsobe instead of Abbott.
Vernon Philander has found his one-day mojo
Remember when all you knew Vernon Philander for in ODIs was dropping catches against England? Those days are long gone and now Philander has shown that his line-and-length approach is actually quite useful in the one-day format. He took eight wickets in just three games during the ODI series against the West Indies and with conditions in Australia and New Zealand likely to be very similar to what he’s used to in South Africa, Philander could be a very important bowler for the Proteas.
“South Africa bowling yorkers” is still not an expression you’ll hear often
Toe crunching, flat batting, pirouette inducing yorkers probably aren’t going to form part of South Africa’s bowling arsenal, no matter how much you want them to. A few bowlers have tried – and succeeded – at bowling the yorker during the series against the West Indies, but it’s still not South Africa’s first choice of attack. The West Indies’ penchant for collapsing didn’t exactly offer South Africa a chance to test their death bowling, but when their second string bowlers were faced with hurricane Andre Russell, they came up short. Their first choice bowlers should do better and now that Parnell has rediscovered his ability to swing the ball, perhaps it’s not all that bad. DM
Photo: South Africa’s captain, AB de Villiers, hits a delivery during the second One-Day International (ODI) against the West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg January 18, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko