If Hashim Amla had his way, all ODI cricket would be played in the same way as the recently completed series between South Africa and New Zealand. Not because both teams could use the contest for experimentation, not because there there was very little at stake but because of conditions.
"The wickets had a lot in it for the bowlers, which is very good. I think this is how ODI cricket should be played - there is something in it for the bowlers and guys have to bat semi-decently to get some runs," Amla said at the post-series presentation, where he was named Man of the Series.
Pre-season pitches in South Africa had their first taste of international cricket and did not prove as pacy as they usually are. Instead, they were slow and sticky, sometimes had some extra bounce and demanded batsmen show patience if they wanted reward. Amla is a master at that and ended as South Africa's highest run-scorer, two behind Tom Latham who led the charts.
He also scored South Africa's only century and ended a lean patch that stretched seven innings and was beginning to bother even him. "It was a bit disappointing not getting runs too often before that," Amla said. "Sometimes when you don't get runs, the hunger increases and you look forward to scoring more runs." Even if those runs come in challenging conditions.
AB de Villiers, who top-scored with 64 in the decider, also found it heavy going. "It wasn't easy at all; it was hard work upfront. I didn't expect it to be difficult until the 30th over," de Villiers said. "Fortunately, David Miller and I managed to get some momentum."
New Zealand did not find anything similar as they tried to suss out what was required to score off a sticky surface. "It was different conditions again and they adapted much better than we did," Kane Williamson said. "We weren't able to get on the front foot and get ahead of it."
South Africa were in the driver's seat in Durban but overall neither side could conclusively say it steered proceedings through the contest with the advantage swinging throughout. Both were able to test their depth and both discovered what could work in future. For South Africa, Kagiso Rabada's control stood out, for New Zealand, Latham's and Ish Sodhi's "Overall this tour has been of great benefit to the team as a whole and a bunch of individuals," Williamson said. And to the organisers because it showed that cricket can be played in winter.