Series win encouraging for year ahead – Kirsten

South Africa’s five-match one-day international (ODI) series win against Pakistan was useful preparation for the year ahead, which includes the ICC Champions Trophy, according to head coach Gary Kirsten.

“This was a good stepping stone for us in terms of where we want to go,” Kirsten said after the Proteas wrapped up a 3-2 series victory in Benoni yesterday.

“I’ve been very encouraged by our players that haven’t played much one-day cricket for us before, and they’ve shown us they’re capable of playing at international level.

“It’s good to have competition for places and it has created depth in our cricket.”

Kirsten singled out Farhaan Behardien, who had only two ODIs under his belt before the series, and David Miller, who had been in and out of the side, and said they had made an impact.

He was also encouraged by all-rounder Ryan McLaren, who enjoyed a fantastic series.

“To have a sixth bowler in your team is crucial and Farhaan Behardien had a bowl and made an immediate difference,” Kirsten said.

“You need a guy to take pace off the ball, who bowls wicket-to-wicket and is slightly different from the other seamers, and it is a big factor for us.”

While Jacques Kallis would be available for the Champions Trophy, which will be hosted by England and Wales in June, and other major ODI tournaments, Kirsten believed the veteran all-rounder was of more value to the test side and the five-day format would remain his priority.

“It’s been important for us to look for someone to step into Jacques’ place and Ryan McLaren has done a fantastic job.

“We’ve given him a bit of a run and he’s proved he’s got the skills on the bowling side.

“He hasn’t had to do much work on the batting side, but I’m confident he can do a job with the bat as well.”

Kirsten said AB de Villiers had made great strides as captain and performed well in all departments, despite public scepticism about how the captaincy would affect his batting and keeping.

The skipper was named Man of the Series for his 367-run contribution in the five matches.

“We ask a lot of AB and this has been a significant series for him in all his components.

“His batting has been outstanding and his keeping continues to develop.

“Most importantly, he has had a great couple of games from a captaincy perspective and he’s done a fantastic job this series.”

Winning the series 4-1 would have been preferable, Kirsten admitted, but he felt the team had played three impressive games of cricket and were moving in the right direction.

“Now is a good time for us to reflect and to work out how we’re going to go to the Champions Trophy and win that tournament,” he said.

“I’m very excited about the team we’re going to put together and we’ll be very motivated to win.

“Ideally, I would love to have had the squad together a month before the Champions Trophy, but it’s not the way cricket is these days, with the Indian Premier League, so you just have to prepare in any way you can.”

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