Did Proteas gain anything from one-sided Zim hit-out?

Andile Phehlukwayo (Gallo Images)
Andile Phehlukwayo (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The ODI series between the Proteas and Zimbabwe, thankfully, is over. 

The experience has no doubt been a good one for our southern African neighbours, but in truth there has been very little to take from this one-sided affair from a South African point of view. 

There are still three T20s to get through this week, but from an ODI perspective and in terms of planning for next year's World Cup, South Africa did not learn very much. 

The bowlers were impressive but, respectfully, they were always going to be against this opposition. 

To make matters worse, the surfaces provided in Kimberley and Bloemfontein for the first two ODIs were not up to scratch and, as a result, the Zimbabweans were skittled on both occasions. 

Perhaps the biggest positive for South Africa is that Dale Steyn got through 15.3 overs, picking up six wickets along the way. 

The 35-year-old has come off a solid county stint with Hampshire, and his first taste of ODI cricket in nearly two years was a success. 

With Kagiso Rabada the first name on any Proteas team sheet these days and with Lungi Ngidi growing with each outing, Steyn's inclusion in the World Cup XI next year is no given just yet. 

He did his cause no harm against Zimbabwe, however. 

There are, in some areas, more questions after the Zimbabwe series than there were going into it. 

With Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock set to return, the Proteas' top order will have more of a settled look to it. 

That pair will open, while Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy will help form the middle-order. 

Heinrich Klaasen did enough against Zimbabwe to suggest that he should be considered as another specialist batting option, while Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks also showed glimpses of what they can do. 

But, in such a relatively meaningless series against average opposition on average surfaces, the selectors have not seen nearly enough to start making those sorts of decisions. 

There is also a lot of uncertainty around Andile Phehlukwayo and the role he is playing in the ODI set-up. 

Considered a specialist death bowler, Phehlukwayo has always been more than competent with the ball and he continued in that vein against Zimbabwe. 

Instead, the worries surrounding the 22-year-old are centred around his batting and the responsibility he is being given as an allrounder. 

Phehlukwayo batted at No 7 in the 3rd ODI and was out for 0, looking all at sea. He did make a valuable 28 in the 2nd ODI, but for too long now he has shown inconsistency with the willow.

His big play with the bat in Proteas colours remains the 42* he scored to help win an ODI against Australia in Durban back in 2016. 

Chris Morris, absent against Zimbabwe as he comes back from injury, should be ready to go for the three-match ODI series in Australia at the end of the month and that will give the selectors an opportunity to find an alternative to Phehlukwayo. 

Elsewhere, the learnings came in the form of failure. 

Dean Elgar's (6 runs in 2 innings) play at a World Cup spot was short-lived as he failed twice and was then dropped for the 3rd ODI, while Christiaan Jonker (31 runs from 2 innings) could not capitalise on his chance either. 

In the end it was a case of 'job done' for the Proteas, as expected, but it is near-impossible to read much, if anything, into what the series meant in the greater scheme of things. 

The T20 series is likely to be more of the same. 

It is obviously a different format entirely, but there are still a few names in the Proteas squad who will be looking for performances to throw their names in the World Cup hat. 

Junior Dala, David Miller, Jonker, Klaasen, Dane Paterson and Tabraiz Shamsi will all want to give timely reminders of why they should be on the plane to England in 2019. 

It might 'only' be Zimbabwe, but now is the time for players to do big things. 

Hopefully, the T20 series dishes up more of a contest so that some of these players can be put in realistic pressure situations.

Time is running out.

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