Proteas

Proteas' batting keeps its flaky look

Dean Elgar (Gallo Images)
Dean Elgar (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - South Africa fielded an extraordinarily callow-looking top seven batting line-up in their home season opener at Kimberley on Sunday ... and it showed.

The Proteas earned a comfortable enough five-wicket victory over the Zimbabwean minnows in the first one-day international, but were left with lingering questions rather than a healthy supply of emphatic answers over their reserve strength, if you like, at the crease.

Remember that the host nation have opted to rest regulars like Quinton de Kock and David Miller in this short series, while regular captain Faf du Plessis and their most experienced cross-formats batsman Hashim Amla are also absent through injury.

So the batting arsenal they assembled at the Diamond Oval - which unexpectedly didn’t offer up its usual gem of a flat deck – had a strangely lopsided look in terms of the proven credentials within its midst.

They were led by the now 190 ODI-cap JP Duminy, and he brought a certain calming influence and sense of order with his unbeaten 16 in the chase-down of only 118 to win after taking guard at a slightly precarious 58 for four.

The surface had an enduring tendency to "spit" appreciably off a good length for the seamers, which went some way to explaining the Proteas’ heavy weather of knocking off the runs – Zimbabwe had earlier posted their lowest total yet against their bigger southern African foes.

But it would still have been a little frustrating to coach Ottis Gibson and his lieutenants that they weren’t able to tick many boxes for meaningful performance by certain borderline or developing batsmen.

ODI debutant Christiaan Jonker made only six, Kimberley-born Reeza Hendricks also failed - he has now registered only seven further runs from three knocks in the format after his sizzling debut 102 in Pallekele - and gnarly Test opener Dean Elgar's transition to the 50-overs landscape for the country also stays shrouded in doubt after seven appearances and an average of 20.

Aiden Markram, who has been having a bumpy ride in international cricket broadly this year, played a few exquisite strokes en route to his 27, but you could also virtually say he was dismissed three times - he was dropped by wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor and had another life when Zimbabwean paceman Tendai Chatara was found to have overstepped after thinking he had nailed his man.

The one plus was Heinrich Klaasen, given the strong responsibility associated with status at No 4, striking an assertive 44 at a run a ball, including the only two sixes of the match - he does hit the ball with great gusto when he goes into attack mode.

But he also blotted his copybook significantly when, trying to go for another big 'un to get to a maiden half-century, he instead holed out not long before victory was sealed - an unnecessary development considering that the Proteas had bags of overs in hand (some 24 by the time the game ended).

It was an amazing thought afterwards that Duminy boasts all but 37 of the 227 caps on display in the SA top seven fielded in this fixture, as well as four centuries and 27 half-tons to the one century and one fifty achieved by all of the others, combined, to this point.

The acting captain also had the satisfaction of reaching 5 000 personal ODI runs, the ninth South African to hit the landmark.

Clear-cut leader remains the great Jacques Kallis (11 550 from 323 matches), while Duminy is closest to eighth-placed Hansie Cronje (5 565 in 188 games).

A lot of observers will be hoping that the Proteas, who badly need their batting properly tested over the next few months to the 2019 World Cup more than they do their already very strong and depth-boasting bowling, take first strike in Wednesday's second contest in Bloemfontein and are put under pressure - hopefully on a slightly truer pitch - to compile a large total.

It is a day/night affair.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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England 159/5 (52 ov)
Pakistan 326
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England 159/5 (52 ov)
Pakistan 326
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