Willowmoore for Proteas?

2013-03-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Proteas are suddenly staring first-time ignominy in the face: possible surrender of two bilateral ODI series on home turf in the same summer.

That will become a reality if they lose the decisive fifth ODI against Pakistan at Willowmoore Park in Benoni tomorrow — for a 3-2 outcome in the tourists’ favour — bearing in mind New Zealand’s 2-1 upset triumph on our soil earlier in 2012/13.

The Pakistanis may claim with some justification, following their tight, but ultimately deserved three-wicket victory in Durban on Thursday, that momentum lies with them for the all-important closing fixture, particularly as SA have injury clouds for them around troopers Dale Steyn and Graeme Smith.

Best retort from AB de Villiers and company would be to recreate the sort of genuine “team” performance that marked their crushing 125-run win in Bloemfontein in the first game of the series, easily their most brutal and clinical effort of the combat thus far.

Since then they have generally played like a confusing combination of a Lamborghini and a smoky diesel tractor, combining fits of individual genius with worrying spells where they go ragged as a collective and only confirm that they are currently fielding several players on training wheels.

In the welcome, dazzling public-holiday sunshine of Kingsmead, South Africa’s fatally below par total of 234/9 after opting for first strike on a dry pitch was really only given some respectability by a partnership of virtually half those runs between form batsman De Villiers and local boy David Miller.

For the last-named player, his ODI career-best 67, after taking to the crease for the start of only the 10th over and at 38/4, could at least be said to have represented personal manna from heaven.

In the past two or three seasons, the left-handed Miller has mostly found it hard to produce for the Proteas, in either of the two limited-overs formats, the kind of exciting, clean hitting that first earned him maiden caps for his country aged 20.

Saddled with a reputation as a “finisher” above all else, he hasn’t even been especially compelling or consistent at that, so to add a slightly unexpected feather to his cap by helping rebuild an innings that was threatening to slip to complete tatters, was a very pleasing development.

A little earlier in the week, former Proteas seamer and forthright television pundit Fanie de Villiers effectively said on his BVP Afrikaans programme that he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about when it comes to the Pietermaritzburg-born batsman, suggesting simultaneously that he would rather see precocious talent Quinton de Kock in the team despite his budding reputation being based more on top-order achievements for the Lions domestically.

So for the moment, Miller is keeping some wolves from his own door — he also fielded outstandingly at Kingsmead, taking a sharp catch and engineering the run-out of Wahab Riaz to give South Africa a brief sniff near the death.

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