South Africa, Sport

Cricket: Six talking points after South Africa’s 5-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka

By Antoinette Muller 13 February 2017

From the opening bowlers to the looming greatness of Quinton de Kock with the already established greatness of Hashim Amla in-between. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks six talking points from South Africa’s clean sweep against Sri Lanka.

Last week, a reader from one of Cape Town’s daily newspapers was so upset about the term “whitewash” being bandied about that he wrote a letter to the paper decrying its use and calling it disrespectful. Before you get on your outrage horse, this was not some radicalised “Social Justice Warrior”, it was merely somebody from Somerset West who thought that the team should not be so mean to Sri Lanka, lest they start emulating “those arrogant Aussies”.

Well, poor Gavin didn’t get his wish as pretty much all the headlines from South Africa’s 5-0 sweep (their second on home soil in as many series) called it what it was: a whitewash.

South Africa comprehensively beat Sri Lanka by 88 runs in the final ODI at Centurion on Friday. It was their 14th win in a row on home soil, a new record run. All in all, it was pretty much a walkover with the Proteas managing to triumph even on the rare occasions when their bowling wasn’t going according to plan.

South Africa’s batting has perhaps been the most impressive and they have now scored 350 or more in the format on 24 occasions, more than any other team at the time of writing.

The team now jets off to New Zealand for a full tour and to further their preparations for the upcoming Champions Trophy in England. Here are some talking points from the series.

No rest for the wicket

Faster than you can say “consecutive whitewash”, the South Africans were bundled onto a plane and carted off to the Land of the Long White Cloud. While busy schedules aren’t unusual in the modern era, there has not been another time in recent memory when the team left for their next assignment the day after they finished one. The Proteas had better get used to it since their schedule is jam-packed for the rest of the year, too. Fortunately, there won’t be too much carting around to the arse end of the world so struggling to recover from jet leg while they’re still playing their first warm-up game will only be a problem this time around.

What can stop Quinton de Kock from greatness?

Quinton de Kock has only been playing ODI cricket for four years, but he already has as many hundreds as any other English player in the format ever. Yes, at 24 years old De Kock has scored more hundreds in the one-day game than England’s best ever South African – Kevin Pietersen – to play the game. Marcus Trescothick managed 12 in his career, but provided De Kock does not get bored with playing cricket, he will probably double that figure. The craziest part is that De Kock is not even in what is considered to be the prime of his career yet.

Speaking of greatness, Hashim Amla is pretty amazing

There was a time when some pundits believed Hashim Amla wasn’t cut out for cricket. He has spent his entire career disproving this. Finishing the series with 261 runs at an average of 52.20 and recording a ton in the final match, Amla notched up a few notable milestones. He is now the fastest ever player to achieve 24 ODI centuries (142 innings, some way ahead of Virat Kohli’s 161 innings), he has more runs than Kohli had after the same number of innings (6,780 vs 6,332) and is the fastest ever to reach 50 international centuries (in all formats), ahead of Sachin Tendulkar. This from a player who some suggest was past his best after struggling a bit in the longest format of the game recently. Seems the best motivator for Amla is to tell him he’s not cut out for something.

The new ball pairing conundrum

Kyle Abbott pulling a fast one and buggering off to the United Kingdom on a Kolpak deal in a post-Brexit frenzy has completely scuppered South Africa’s plans for the Champions Trophy. The idea was that Abbott, who has been one of South Africa’s best white ball bowlers in recent months, takes the new ball, but unless somebody rewinds and tell us we’re actually in a Leon Schuster movie, that’s not going to happen.

Thus, this series had some use. Chief among those uses (aside from the broadcast revenue) was to trial a few opening pairs and over the course of this series South Africa tried three different combinations. It is near impossible to draw conclusions when the data is so limited and with so many variables in play, but that’s exactly what the remaining games before the Champions Trophy begins are for: experimenting.

During this series, there was a tendency to bring the first change bowler in quite early – Dwaine Pretorius came on as early as the fifth over in the third ODI and JP Duminy bowled first change in the fourth over of the fourth game. Overall, South Africa’s bowling was a bit on the iffy side in the first 10 overs when they opted to chop and change with Sri Lanka’s run rate in the first 10 overs climbing from 5.4 in the third ODI to 10 in the fourth and dropping back down to 7.3 in the fifth.

South Africa’s bowlers were most consistent in the first two matches where Wayne Parnell and Kagiso Rabada took the bulk of the first 10 overs up front (four and three each) in the first and second ODIs. Run rates here were the lowest of the tournament at 3.7 and 5.6. These figures tell us little other than South Africa is still searching for consistency and trying to find its bowling bearings.

They have exactly eight one-day games to find them or order a replacement part from the bowling wilderness if they so choose.

Is there really no practice like match practice?

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi memed himself before the State of the Nation Address with a picture of him holding his arms aloft accompanying the text: “What will the army do when we hold a constitutional delinquent accountable tonight? Nothing! So, fear fokol.” That little bit of Twitter inception from the People’s Bae has now been colonised by cricket watchers, wondering what exactly Sri Lanka came to South Africa for. The question some asked, then, was whether or not the Proteas actually managed to get any benefit from the soiree of regular beatings they handed out. The short answer is yes (see previous point). The long answer is that it’s debatable. With so much fuss over schedules and management wanting everyone to be fit for the Champions Trophy, those who think less is more might have a point.

Does anybody really care about the number one ranking?

Being ranked number one in one-day cricket doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it as being ranked top of the world in Tests. Yet, that ranking was celebrated like a municipality celebrates a clean audit. Let’s be honest, it’s a nice thing to have, but it means very little until the team wins a major ICC trophy. The first prize is the World Cup, but the Champions Trophy is just around the corner and if they can replicate their home success over in New Zealand, there’s no reason they shouldn’t believe that they are favourites heading into the tournament. DM

Photo: The winning South African team after the fifth 2017 Momentum ODI game between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Centurion Park, Pretoria on 10 February 2017 © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix


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