The Proteas clinching a one-day series win against West Indies should come as a surprise to anyone. After all, they have lost a one-dayer to West Indies just once in the previous 15 battles between the two sides. However, following the debacle in the T20 World Cup, it was paramount for both teams to get back to that winning feeling as quickly as possible.
And, so while too much can’t be read into the triumph, the South Africans should use the confidence gained as a stepping stone towards building a winning combination for the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent. There are still two more games to go in the series, and a 5-0 whitewash ala the Hansie Cronje days would do the side no harm at all.
Despite not being at their best, South Africa have still easily managed to outplay the Caribbeans. Batting has proved to be South Africa’s strength in the series, and even when it failed in the third ODI, the bowlers stood up to seal the series for their team. With the willow, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have been particularly impressive.
And, it has been mainly due to the duo’s efforts that the Proteas now find themselves in such an impregnable position. AB has been having a golden run in one-day cricket of late, and South Africa would be desperately hoping that it lasts a lot longer, and even against much-stronger teams.
Like de Villiers, Amla also is going through a purple patch. He was always a good Test match player, but now that he has found his bears in the 50-over version as well, South Africa can afford to look beyond Herschelle Gibbs, who form has consistently petered away with age.
While these have been the chief positives in the batting department to come out from the series so far, a couple of worries still remain. None bigger than that of their skipper Graeme Smith, whose form remains wretched. He has got a number of starts lately, but hasn’t been able to convert most.
And, his ability to pick up injuries freakishly has been haunting him and the side rather frequently. Smith would dearly love to put the bad memories behind him, and start afresh from the fourth one-dayer. With the series in the bag, South Africa will get a chance to experiment. And, so the likes of Loots Bosman, Alviro Petersen and David Miller should get a chance to remind the selectors of their presence as the World Cup nears.
Shifting focus to South Africa’s bowling, Morne Morkel has been the stand-out performer, putting West Indies on the back foot with his pace and aggression. It was his bowling effort that was significantly responsible in the Proteas defending a meagre total in the third one-dayer.
Dale Steyn has remained pacy as ever and has been keeping the batsman on their toes. South Africa’s tactics have also been well-thought out. Kieron Pollard hasn’t been allowed to free his strong arms. Darren Sammy did manage to flay the Proteas attack in one game, but their bowlers came back well to restrict him in the next encounter, indicating they had learnt their lessons quickly.
With two games left, South Africa now need to go for the kill. Yes, as aforementioned, they are bound to experiment. However, it shouldn’t be at the cost of the game. A fine balance needs to the struck between the two, so that the momentum gained via the hat-trick of wins is not interrupted.
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