|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
South Africa may have won the ODI series against Pakistan, but they still need to plug weaknesses in their line-up
Firdose Moonda in Benoni
March 24, 2013
If the deciding match in Benoni was a World Cup final, South Africa would have reason to be overjoyed. The result says they won comprehensively but it does not speak of the struggle involved.
Twice, they had to break what were developing into threatening stands from Pakistan and both times they did so fairly quickly, assisted by poor shots from the opposition. In the end, they restricted them to a gettable but potentially tricky total on a surface were inconsistent bounce was as much of a challenge as some of the bowling.
It was the kind of chase that could be have been made heavy weather of, and it looked as though it was headed that way before an individual, better yet, the captain and a few trusty steeds put the result beyond doubt. It was not competitive to the last delivery or even the few dozen before that, but it was challenging enough to test the skills of a team that will not play together again for two months and that reconvene with a major tournament in their sights.
Do not be surprised if this series win translates into nothing come England in June. But, do not be surprised if it does. The only thing you, and the South African team, can be certain of is that it has made a few strides in the right direction with their one-day side. Specifically, the middle order has hardened up, the bowlers are operating with more thought and the captain may have found his place after 18 months of topsy-turvy.
He agreed on all three fronts. "I've seen improvement right through the series. We started slowly in Bloemfontein, even though we won, I could tell that things were rusty. I can see that the bowling has formed some good partnerships and the batters have looked good through the series. We are happy with our progress," AB de Villiers said.
South Africa started the series without the two men who are considered crucial to their pack, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, but it did not affect them. Lonwabo Tsotsobe continues to employ skilful variations. He opens the bowling well and his later spells have got better. Rory Kleinveldt and Kyle Abbott are both more than adequate back-up. They can both extract bounce and get seam movement.
The change has come mostly from the option of an additional seamer in Ryan McLaren. From a bits and pieces cricketer up until the beginning of this year, McLaren has come into his own. His slower-ball bouncer is effective and his tactical acumen makes him valuable.
Pakistan were bowled out for under 220 twice in the series as a result of their combined efforts and South Africa can be satisfied with the depth they have. Their issue, and Misbah-ul-Haq was frank in mentioning it, is that the spinner has not performed up to expectation.
"They are developing into a good side, they are really playing good cricket. They are really fit, their fielding is good, they have a good bowling attack but if you look at the spin department, it might be a concern for them." In four of the five matches, Peterson played in the series he has gone for over five runs an over. The back-up spinner, Aaron Phangiso, was never used and the one man who could come into contention, Johan Botha, has relocated and he is no longer considered for selection.
This is not a new problem. Spinners have always been South Africa achilles' heel and while they appeared close to solving it in the recent past, they have not come up with a complete solution. It may not be something that affects them in the Champions Trophy, so they may get away with it.
What they will not get away from is having a susceptible middle order and that conundrum seems to have rectified itself. Colin Ingram, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien have all made cases to compete with Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy for places in the final XI.
Most obvious in the new stability of the middle order is that de Villiers is playing at a new level. He racked up 367 runs in the five matches which included three fifties and a hundred - his highest ever in a bilateral series. He has also resolved the ability to keep wicket, captain and take responsibility with the bat and even though it may get difficult to juggle all three in future, he has any idea of how.
"I am enjoying my batting at the moment. My game plan is straightforward: to have good intensity at the crease, to try and keep still, watch the ball and confront the situation. Every time it is a different one and I am enjoying that. I can really go out there and absorb some pressure and it seems to be going way. Today, I took the opportunity with both hands and hopefully, I can continue that form."
He will wish the same for the team, who showed more than just fight and determination but an ability to get out of situations that could have become sticky. "We've got to keep playing better and better. We beat a very good Pakistan team here and we always knew we had the talent to win a big tournament but we will have to prove that," he said. June will tell.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
|Comments have now been closed for this article