South Africa v India, 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth January 22, 2011

Duminy is the real thing

JP Duminy's second successive half-century, both coming when South Africa were on the back foot, proves he is ready to take on responsibility in the middle order

"JP jou lekker ding," read the big screen when JP Duminy extended his arms to play at a widish delivery, stroking it past mid-off for four to bring up his half-century. Lekker ding is an Afrikaans term that can be used in many contexts, but the closest translation in this case would be the "real thing". That was only Duminy's second boundary in an innings that not only rescued South Africa when a series defeat was staring them in the eye, but had also reached a strike-rate of a run a ball by its end.

Two games earlier, when Graeme Smith spoke of batsmen going for glory as opposed to knocking off a simple target, Duminy was one of the batsmen whom that could have applied to. The result then was a heart-breaking one-run defeat as many other players went for glory. Duminy has learnt his lesson since then, playing responsibly amid two middle-order collapses. His effort in Cape Town proved inadequate, but on Friday, his innings, full of hustled twos and ones, did the job.

It wasn't an easy pitch to bat on, with its slow nature and spongy bounce making stroke-play difficult. To add to that, South Africa were bent on running themselves out. It would have been easy to either get bogged down or try to hit out in panic. However, Duminy, along with Johan Botha first and Robin Peterson later, kept finding the gaps and pushing the fielders. With three pairs of dodgy legs in the Indian side, and a wicketkeeper fielding in the outfield, there was every chance they would wilt. Duminy made sure they did.

Duminy ran 43 singles and seven twos for himself, but while he was there, Botha took 14 singles and nine couples, and Peterson 19 singles. That makes it 108 laps of those 22 yards. "Guess it has always been a strength of ours, running well between the wickets," Duminy said later. "Keeping the intensity up. That was our main focus, making sure we keep getting our four or five runs an over, and try to take it as deep as possible, and cash in at the end."

That Duminy was at ease on the pitch showed from how he cut the first ball he faced wide enough of sweeper cover to come back for two. He used his feet well against Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh, coming down the track often and chipping balls into gaps. Last year, when he went to India, against a similar attack, he scored 9, 0, 6 and 0 in the four innings he got over the Tests and one-dayers. Personally, it must be satisfying for him to get three half-centuries against the same team in a home series, two of those in wins. Duminy puts it down to the work he has done in the off season.

"I will definitely take a lot of confidence out of these performances. Something I have worked on in the off season is playing well against offspin, and obviously the short ball. I am pretty happy where I am at the moment. Hopefully I can continue that into the World Cup."

Duminy's only forceful shot on Friday, before he reached the half-century, came off a long hop from Munaf Patel, pulled between Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra in the deep. He targeted his fielders well, often running after hitting straight to Munaf inside the ring, and always putting pressure on either of the fast bowlers when they were in the deep. And Duminy can run, and he found two willing partners in Botha and Peterson.

If you were to look back at the innings, you wouldn't immediately remember even a single shot that stood out, except for the pulled six in the final over. In that regard this ding wasn't quite lekker, which, in original Dutch, is often used synonymously with tasty, luscious, or hot. In South Africa, though, the connotation becomes broader, and can easily include anything cool, good, or as in Duminy's case today, the real thing. Pretty damn lekker.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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