Cape Town – It’s great to have two supreme batting talents like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in your midst ... it can also be dangerous to depend on them too much.
Both observations apply to South Africa’s one-day international side at present.
They may very well prosper against world champions India, in the three-match series starting at the Wanderers on Thursday (13:30), simply because of the seldom-failing presence of these two luminaries at the crease; they could also come a cropper if there isn’t meaningful, overdue support for them from elsewhere in the order.
In recent times, the hot-and-cold Proteas have tended to struggle for healthy totals when one – and certainly when both – has failed to come off.
The plush real estate occupied by De Villiers and Amla on the ICC batting rankings for ODIs tells a story of its own: the crowd-pleasing captain currently stands second only to India’s Virat Kohli, whilst bearded accumulator Amla lies fourth.
But then there is a telling gap to the next South African – JP Duminy at 27th.
If South Africa are to rise soon from their humdrum fifth on the team rankings, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that they need more consistent and sometimes match-winning contributions from outside the De Villiers-Amla combo.
Are senior statesmen Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, for instance, going to thoroughly re-announce themselves as key figures in this format over the next few days?
Is prodigious, but still naive talent Quinton de Kock going to truly nail down his spot by proving his maiden century against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi less than a month ago was no flash in the pan?
For the time being, however, high expectation will continue to stalk De Villiers and Amla, even if they have shown over and over again that they can rise to the weight of responsibility on their personal shoulders.
The former is in a fairly rich vein of form, reassuringly for his team, as evidenced by his last four knocks against Pakistan in the format, whether home or away: 115 not out in Sharjah, then 10 in Cape Town, 74 in Port Elizabeth (when he really should have stayed undefeated and seen his troops home), and an admirably more responsible 48 not out at Centurion.
Another pointer to De Villiers possibly getting this critical series against India off with a bang at the Bullring is that he may just be bidding for a rare honour, if he manages to get stuck in for long enough: achievement of a century in three successive ODIs at the Wanderers.
Last time out at the venue, he blasted 128, in last summer’s series against the Pakistanis, when Amla was also in destructive mood with 122 and the pair posted a record ODI stand for any wicket by South Africa of 238 at a blistering rate of 7.84 runs to the over.
On the previous Wanderers occasion, De Villiers struck 125 not out (a game where Smith also got 125) against Sri Lanka in the 2011/12 campaign.
Strongly powered by those two innings, the right-hander boasts 384 runs at an average of 96 – his career average is presently 49.13 -- in seven ODI appearances at the Bullring.
Amla, meanwhile, is showing fine signs of building up to his own best form at a convenient time: he comes off 98 in the agonising loss by one run to the Pakistanis in PE, which decided the series, and was then run out for 41 in the dead-rubber Centurion fixture which South Africa won last Saturday.
As much as the duo remain critical components of the Proteas’ batting arsenal, it would be a particularly refreshing development if bulky or decisive scores from elsewhere characterised a possible SA win in Johannesburg on Thursday night ...
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