After what can only be described as a humiliating defeat at the hands of the English in a recent 4-match test series, the Proteas, without a number of key players, have bounced back in the opening ODI game with a crushing 7 wicket victory over their visitors.
I was admittedly unimpressed with the Proteas team selection as well as Proteas captain Quinton de Kock’s decision to bowl first on what appeared to be a relatively flat-looking wicket, but what transpired over the next 7 or so hours was absolutely clinical and almost faultless from a relatively inexperienced Proteas side which included two debutants and a ‘new look’ top order and bowling attack compared to the world cup outfit.
After opting to field first, the world champion English side looked to take the attack to our new ball bowlers, with Jason Roy taking a particular liking to Lungi Ngidi who, if we’re honest, lacked any kind of rhythm and control upfront. Having said that, cricket is much like chess in the sense that you have a series of moves and counter moves, and Quinton de Kock was quick to make changes, bringing on the debutant left-arm orthodox bowler Jon-Jon Smuts and the incredibly intelligent Andile Phehlukwayo inside the first 10 overs to really slow England’s momentum.
The changes worked wonders with Smuts, Phehlukwayo, and Shamsi all contributing to a collapse of the English top order who found themselves reeling on 131-6 inside the first 28 overs. Having said that, a major strength of this English side is their ability to bat deep, and bat deep they did with a well-played 87 by Joe Denly who was well assisted by the all-rounders of Chris Woakes and Tom Curran who managed to steer England to a very defendable (but below par) 258-8 in their allotted 50 overs with the two left-arm spinners Smuts and Shamsi the pick of the South African bowlers.
In walked the Proteas skipper, keeper, opening batsman and superstar Quinton de Kock who, after losing his partner relatively early, opted for a fairly conservative start. South Africa found themselves on 40-odd after the first 10 overs (Slightly behind the English at the same point) but thereafter, it was one-way traffic for the Proteas with de Kock and Bavuma sharing in a partnership of around 170 odd which all but sealed the game for the hosts by the 35th over.
As a purist of the game, or at least I’d like to consider myself as one, it was great to watch two guys take apart the English attack without resorting to any kind of T20 induced hooliganism, but rather a remarkable exhibition of stroke play and basic ordinary batting principles executed extraordinarily.
South Africa will undoubtedly be feeling more confident going into the 2nd of 3 ODI’s this Friday night in Durban South Africa. Having said that, I still have some concerns over the length of the South African batting tail with the sole bowling all-rounder Andile coming in at 7 (who is more than capable with the bat) but with very little offer thereafter. Looking at the success of Smuts and Shamsi, Proteas Coach Mark Boucher might be tempted to offer Bjorn Fortuin an ODI debut at the expense of one of the quicks i.e. Hendricks, Ngidi or Sipamla, to add some much-needed depth to our line-up.
All in all, a fantastic start for the Proteas but I have no doubt the world champions will fancy their chances to level the series!
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