New Zealand in South Africa 2012-13

South Africa struggling for one-day focus

South Africa's one-day series loss to New Zealand came as a surprise, but the 50-over game has not been a priority for a while. That needs to change.

Firdose Moonda

January 23, 2013

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Quinton de Kock flicks to the leg side, South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Kimberley, January 22, 2013
Quinton de Kock is one of a number of inexperienced players being given a chance by South Africa © Associated Press

New Zealand's one-day series victory has been hailed as "one of our biggest ever wins in the limited-overs game," by their captain Brendon McCullum and rightly so. Not only is it the first time New Zealand have triumphed in a series of any format in South Africa but it has come off the back of humiliating Test defeats. To have risen from those lows and then scale such heights deserves enormous praise.

But the equivalent amount of disappointment does not appear to be felt by South Africa. These defeats do not substantially differ from their form in the fifty-over format since Gary Kirsten took over.

Since October 2011, South Africa have played 18 ODIs, won nine, lost eight and had one no-result. They have won two series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, lost two against Australia and New Zealand and shared one with England. Through it all, no-one has looked too bothered.

With the focus on Test performances and getting their hands on the coveted mace, ODI inconsistency was not just tolerated, it was forgotten about. South Africa are one of the few teams who have the luxury of putting 50-over cricket at the back of their minds because they've managed to convince their fans there are more pressing things to think about.

That has to change now, with a Champions Trophy on the horizon and a World Cup to plan for. By then, they will have to find game plans that work and a way to make to progress from a vice that has come back to haunt them again: losing games from positions where they should win.

If South Africa take anything out of this New Zealand series it should be a warning sign that they have not rectified a problem of old. Worse, they seem to be coming up with new ways to let the upper-hand slip.

At Boland Park, New Zealand were 140 for 8, chasing 209. South Africa's bowlers should never have let them get there. The ninth and tenth wickets added 47 and 22 respectively with the former being the second highest partnership of the innings.

That speaks of an inability to be in control at the death, something Peter Kirsten, who commentated on both matches isolated as his biggest concern at the moment. "Ryan McLaren and Dale Steyn just weren't up to the mark and McLaren has been particularly disappointing," he said. Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt may be better options late in an innings, with both able to find that yorker length that evades someone like Morne Morkel.

In Kimberley, South Africa slid from 167 for 1, in search of a competitive but not impossible 280 to 252 all out. They lost nine wickets for 85 runs, five of them through run-outs. Colin Ingram, who was at the other end when both Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis were found short of their ground said the team "have to be more aware of where the fielders were." That may be the technical reason for South Africa's collapse but the mental one should probably be addressed with greater interest.

South Africa are known for freezing. Ingram insisted they did not jam up in the second match but the evidence says otherwise. The cause for the panic has not yet been found but Kirsten suggested something that could explain it. "I'd like to see more settled batting positions," he said.

If South Africa take anything out of this New Zealand series it should be a warning sign that they have not rectified a problem of old. Worse, they seem to be coming up with new ways to let the upper-hand slip

The floating batting order has not worked. That may be because the players are unable to adjust quickly enough to the demands of different positions or because they feel pressured into performing well in every position and inevitably fail trying to do that. It seems the concept is before its time with the current South African unit who clearly defined roles. Its time they are given that.

Further insecurity has been created by the resting of players like Jacques Kallis and the rotating of premier quicks. The replacements appear to see their opportunity as do or die. They all know that Kallis will be back for a major tournament and do not seem to be sure what to do to make sure he does not return at their expense. Workload management is important in the modern age but when players think every chance is their last, it becomes a balancing act.

Personnel will also come under scrutiny in the aftermath and it is important to note that South Africa were without many of their big-name regulars. In the absence of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers they were missing 196 caps. "We also have to remember that JP Duminy is a big all-round loss," Kirsten said.

The captaincy issue has already been debated in these pages and it will continue to hamper South Africa because they are obviously uncomfortable with this much change. Graeme Smith is the only senior (in terms of age and number of matches) player in the squad for the third ODI. He was seen in regular communication with the bowlers during the second match, but will also want to be careful not to step on toes now that he is not the designated leader.

Kirsten described de Villiers style of leadership as having a "slight immaturity to it that you will get with an inexperienced captain." The same could be seen in Faf du Plessis. South Africa's Test squad has reached the stage were almost all of them are seen as wise heads. To have the complete contrast in the limited-overs is taking its toll.

The Test teams' maturity is not yet evident in the one-day side, neither is its confidence or stability. Now that the ODI side have decided to model themselves on the Test side, maybe a more measured style of play will take effect - not in the sense that South Africa revert back to conservatism but in that they learn when to press an advantage and when to hold back a touch.

"Our Test side is top of the rankings and in the last couple of days we've spoken a lot about where we want to go as a one-day side," Ingram said. "We want to get our win percentages up. The focus is definitely on the number of games we can win because that will take us over the line in big tournaments as well."

With winning even when it does not matter a priority, the third one-dayer in Potchefstroom will be South Africa's chance to start climbing the ladder.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by anshu.s on (January 24, 2013, 19:35 GMT)

Let me say that i have great respect for South African team for there achievements, but if test cricket is so popular in SA then why did national broadcaster SABC have decided to stop live telecast of test matches saying it is not profitable, why apart from Capetown crowds at other venues are so less for test matches ?? someone suggested that only England,Australia,SA care about test matches/ or say test cricket is real cricket as if to say that Indians,Pakistanis,Sri Lankans,Bangladeshis are crass and classless people who don't appreciate test cricket but seek entertainment and cheap thrills of shorter formats. Please kindly resist from making such statement because they reek of condensation and pompous elitism.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

@Firdose. Well written. But I personally think, there is no need to panic. Such bilateral series are losing its sting, thanks to the overkill of cricket. SAF must have taken this series as a practise match ahead of some more important tournaments. Once the big guys are back, SAF will again be a force to reckon with.

Posted by Baundele on (January 24, 2013, 9:11 GMT)

South Africa is an over rated team. They have a good pace bowling attack; but their batting is inconsistent. There is no able replacement for Kallis, Amla, Smith or AB. Amla, Kallis and the bowlers are the reason why they win in test matches. So, when they are dropped/rested from the ODI side, SA becomes a weak side. Focus or no focus, their loss is no surprise.

Posted by Gordo85 on (January 24, 2013, 7:54 GMT)

Dillon du Preez must be getting close to getting selected by South Africa in Tests or in ODI's sometime soon. He is on fire with Bat and ball. Lets give him a go before he gets too old and misses the boat altogether. Is Rusty Theron injured? I haven't heard anything about him for a long time. This Kyle Abbott I am a big fan of his because he doesn't bowl with lots of pace and plus he can bat also.

Posted by Pablo123 on (January 24, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

Strangely enough, as a South African, this article hits the nail on the head. This series has hardly been spoken about here unlike other series and it hasn't had us all rushing off to pubs or our couches to watch. It really has had no effect at all. South Africa is very much Test orientated in mindset, even though the lack of crowd attendance may say otherwise - (but most people work in SA and don't have the luxury of going to the games during the week).

South Africa DO love ODI cricket, but this series was used to rest the legends and give game experience to many new youngsters. I'm 100% certain that when a serious ODI series or ranking is at stake, you will see a full strength SA side playing.

Do not read too much into this result, it does not reflect the SA teams current status at all.

Posted by Julzio on (January 24, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

Taylor, Ryder, Vettori and Southee is not even in the Top 10 icc rankings! Closest is Taylor crawling in at #18... Oh btw that NZ snubbed just before the tour!

Posted by bobbo2 on (January 24, 2013, 5:59 GMT)

Missing players is no excuse for SA as NZ is missing Taylor, Ryder, Vettori and Southee - arguably in the top 5 players NZ would select for any game

Posted by jplterrors on (January 24, 2013, 3:04 GMT)

Just saw the odds NZ 3.20, SA 1.36? It shd be the other way around as NZ will thrash em in the 3rd one. Yes they have their test form to fall back on but that will count for ziltch when they see BMac hold the WC aloft in 2015

Posted by Crick_Expert on (January 24, 2013, 2:26 GMT)

Pakistan team should be as 1-Nasir Jamshed, 2-Mohd Hafeez, 3-Taufeeq Umar, 4-Azhar Ali, 5-Younis Khan, 6-Misbha Naizi, 7-Sarfaraz Ahmed, 8--Umar Gul, 9-Saeed Ajmal, 10-Junaid Khan, 11-Mohd Irfan

Posted by x-sl-boy on (January 24, 2013, 2:00 GMT)

@StaalBurgher: addition to yours, only aus, sa and England are doing the test cricket as it should be these days. players are so commercialzed. They are human, every one like a fat wallet. Quite correct, too many form of cricket these days, not only for cricketers but for fans. This summer in aus we had bigbash, test cricket, odis and t20s, at least a $50 for a single ticket.

Posted by Robster1 on (January 24, 2013, 1:46 GMT)

Step up Albie Morkel, Kyle Abbot and Andrew Birch. No more playing uninspired 'B' teams.

Posted by zenboomerang on (January 24, 2013, 1:04 GMT)

@Firdose Moonda... Very well written - a much more perceptive look at what is going wrong in the Saffa ODI team without being derogatory than all the Oz writers combined talk about the Oz squad... Very refreshing & wish you (or Harsha) could write more stories on Oz cricket - enjoyed your posts here earlier in the summer...

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 23, 2013, 22:19 GMT)

@Scarlett Gray:

"...Tsotsobe is a match winner & loser in equal proportion."

Wow, what a gem of a sentence. I may or may not agree with the judgement passed on here on Tsotsobe but the way you constructed this sentence is awesome.

I've never read anything like this before and the way it talks of the highs and lows and the stark contrast that it has with the rather negative aftertaste is a fantastic way to talk about something like this.

Reddit has been the source of so many memes and if cricinfo had that many viewers then this too can serve as a very nice template to talk about anything that is good and bad in equal measure or something that can help you or hurt you on diff times.

Posted by Lipoflegend on (January 23, 2013, 21:42 GMT)

I believe that teh idea of having completely sep[arate sies is teh right one. Because the ortherwise good players that fill in for test legends, wondering if they will have their place in major tournaments is bad for their morale, and stability.

Decide on separate players, and play them consistently. End of. Each player can then hone their skills for that type of format. Smith is not a ODI player - his run rate is too slow. He should not be trying to change it either, because when he plays tests again, he will stuggle again. Each player must adjust mentally to their teammates play, and to the requirements of that format. Chopping and changing is not helping. Sepaate the teams completely.

Posted by OzWally on (January 23, 2013, 21:34 GMT)

Don't worry @TTS and the other SA supporters out there. ODI's today are just training grounds to find your future Test players. Australia (and to a lesser extent England) have been playing teams far from their best for years and if they lose a few along the way, who cares. The WC is the only tournament you need to be prepared for.

Cricket Australia finally caught on when the great team from the last decade all retired at once (well 8 of the 11) and they were then caught with their collective pants down with no one ready to step up. To some extent we are still paying for that mistake today.

Posted by Inducker on (January 23, 2013, 20:59 GMT)

I think our usual problem is chasing when the batting is pressurised by soft-balling bowlers on low slow wickets with pap ball. New Zealand just takes pace off the ball and bowls straight. Why can't a left/right combination practice hitting the ball into gaps and rotating the strike instead of whacking at fielders. Until the senior players come to terms with it, the juniors are less likely to.There is always more time than you think but avoid the dots and boundaries will follow. Smith must stop chucking his wicket away taking chances when he is set. You can tell when he is going to go out, usually after a period of pressure when he tries to force it instead of recognising the moment and playing percentage. Even de Villiers gets a bit nervy and FAF has been involved in a runout like that before. Picking Ingram, Behardien and Millar together is not a good idea. They need to be introduced one by one surrounded by seniors. Behardien must improve his strike rate

Posted by SnowSnake on (January 23, 2013, 20:42 GMT)

SA needs to change for sure. Losing the ODI series against low ranked NZ and that too at home is a bit embarrassing to say the least. I think SA batsmen are good at tests (especially Amla) and do not score as fast in ODIs.

Posted by quittthewhinging on (January 23, 2013, 20:28 GMT)

I respect Peter Kirsten's views but Firdose you should really try to get the views of Gary Kirsten & Andrew Hudson. They are the people running the show & should be taking the flak. I really can't remember Gary saying much since he took over & he shouldn't think that the fans attribute the Test team's success to him. As for Hudson, I get the impression the selectors are driven by short-termism & emotion. "AB is a great guy & the fans love him, let's make him captain". Well, with due respect to AB, we know now where that has got us. That disaster with the over rate in the first ODI should never have happened.

lst ODI - 18 wides & 3 no balls - Mr. Donald, where are you hiding? 2nd ODI - 5 run outs & innumerable fielding errors - Mr. Fielding Coach (Jonty?), where are you hiding?

Re: QDK. I don't remember 1 mistake behind the stumps in either game. #7 in lst ODI, opens in 2nd. And Graeme scratches around like an old hen, leaving it up to QDK to try to up the rate.

Posted by Smahuta on (January 23, 2013, 18:00 GMT)

This is what happens when you pick a B squad time after time. I cant remember when last I saw the strongest team on the park at the same time. Id rather they just play the test squad for the ODI's and forget about rest.

Posted by Ali_Chaudhary on (January 23, 2013, 17:59 GMT)

cricinfo was very right. It was a mis-match. It really was.

Posted by StaalBurgher on (January 23, 2013, 17:10 GMT)

Nothing has to change. ODIs and T20s can die, or at least one of them needs to. Too many formats to co-existent with the greatest game on Earth; Test cricket.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (January 23, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

If i look back on my previous Protea supporting days, we used to have an average test team and a brilliant ODI team that never won any trophies. If I have to choose between then and now - I choose to be No.1 in Test cricket and tinkering in ODIs by losing series.

@Scarlett I see what you are saying but what is noticable is how many teams DONT have express, quality quicks in their ODI teams and yet are still very successful (india, SL, current Oz team, etc) Teams which consistently do well have bowling and batting arounders that do a job and limit damage - bits and pieces players - N.Mcullum, Franklin, etc. They seem to focus on getting a big score and then try and put pressure on teams as their strategy which seems to work. Tournaments generaly are going to be played on slow, flatter tracks which suits this style of play.

The problem with SA is that they havent quite worked this out yet, dont know who to select for which conditions in what order !!!

Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (January 23, 2013, 16:00 GMT)

Gary is indeed The Guru, and I see what he is doing here. Prior to nearly all previous ODI tournaments we have had a decent looking side who have carried expecation with them. And we all know where that has got us... Now the expectations are so low as to be non existent. We are without any clue at the moment. So I see and understand Gary's plan. Go for it, we have tried everything else!

Posted by uncanny on (January 23, 2013, 15:33 GMT)

SA missing JP duminy and one hard hitter lower down the order, may be a albie or a ontang. ryan mclaren is just a waste, dont know why he is in team. the team of Champions trophy should be: smith, davis, amla, kallis, AB, duminy, faf, albie/ontang, robbie, tsotsobe, morne/steyn

Posted by PrasPunter on (January 23, 2013, 15:12 GMT)

It's been quite common to see teams losing interest and steam after the real deal - a win in a test-series - is done - Eng lost 1-6 twice in a row after Ashes victories, Aus just managed to level with a low-ranked SL and now SA has lost one. Even Eng after giving a hiding to india in the test-series, just let the ODI series go. They can't be blamed for that. Just that these teams focus better on the real ones . These ones are the best opportunity to rest our key players, as these 3 teams have always done. That said, congrats to NZ .

Posted by SamRoy on (January 23, 2013, 15:02 GMT)

I think SA's problem arises from the fact there are not enough quality white ball bowlers. Only Morkel is consistently threatening with the new ball (Steyn is inconsistent) and with the old ball only Petersen is decent. Tsotsobe is economical but far from threatening. It's a decent attack but nobody will lose their sleep facing them as new ball loses shine 4-5 overs. If you compare it to the best bowling ODI lineup (Pakistan) everyone is dangerous and a wicket-taker.

Posted by SpottedHyena on (January 23, 2013, 14:58 GMT)

Don't think anyone really cares about 50 overs - judging by the weak teams picked. I for one find it tedious - ODI's were only ever meant as light entertainment. Now it takes up and entire day with its dullness. If we have to stomach T20 make that the format of choice - at least it's over quickly. Test for real cricket, T20 for entertainment and moneygrabbing.

Posted by Unomaas on (January 23, 2013, 14:48 GMT)

I think SA just underated NZ. They though NZ would be push overs and didn't approach the series as a competitive fixture...rather as a entertainment spectacle that they thought they would win by just showing up. Even after the first loss, SA thought it was a fact I think most SA safa fans had they same thought..."no worries, it was a fluke!".

Its a disgrace the way SA approaches it limited overs haphazardly. There isn't that drive to be ruthless, competitive and totally professional. Instead, focus is more on experimentation, building towards the future, identifying new talent, creating limited overs specialists, etc. Thats all great...but what ever happeneding to winning first and putting all those other things as secondary priorities?

As a saffa fan, I have watched the last 2-3 years of our cricket as we chopped, changed, poked, bashed and generally tweaked our selection policies, tactics, strategy, etc wiith nothing to show for it.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (January 23, 2013, 14:43 GMT)

I don't think SA is alone in losing a bit of interest in ODIs. With the rise of t20, many of those who prefer shorter games watch that, while purists will always follow tests. I can remember all test results but who remembers ODI series results a year or so later? Only the knockout stages of the World Cup are memorable, and the Champions Trophy is dead after this year.

But SA still need to improve, and the performances of McLaren are a harsh glimpse of the future without Kallis. When Kallis and Duminy play the team can play more batsmen as they both bowl, SA have looked a batsman light in this series. It helps to have a keeper who can bat in the top 3, but the performances of NZ's tail really showed up SA. Oh for the days of Pollock, Klusener and Boje as the 'tail'!

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