Proteas v Sri Lanka ODIs: 5 talking points

Lungi Ngidi (Getty)
Lungi Ngidi (Getty)

Cape Town - The Test series was a write-off, with the Proteas beaten heavily in both contests by a superior Sri Lankan outfit, but there was at least some good news for the visitors when they emerged with a 3-2 victory in the ODI series. 

With the 2019 World Cup in England now less than a year away, South Africa and the rest of the cricketing world will be prioritising ODIs over everything else. 

Having raced to a 3-0 lead in the ODIs, the Proteas then experimented somewhat in the final two matches of the series. 

Quinton de Kock was made captain for those matches with Faf du Plessis out injured, and while the results did not go his way he would have learnt a lot. 

There were some obvious positives, but there are also a few concerns that remain as coach Ottis Gibson looks to find his best combinations ahead of 2019. 

Here, we look at five talking points to have come out of the series. Pics from Getty

1. Proteas new ball in good hands

When the injured Du Plessis addressed media in Cape Town on Friday, one of the things he was most excited about was the opening bowling pairing of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

Rabada's destructive abilities are known to the world, and he was always going to be a key figure in South Africa's World Cup plans, but he looks to have an increasingly able partner in Ngidi.

The 22-year-old took 10 wickets in the series - more than any other Protea - at an average of just 20.50.

Junior Dala was also given a valuable taste of ODI cricket in the final two ODIs, and when one considers that Dale Steyn might also be in the World Cup picture, then the Proteas look to have that department in trustworthy hands for now.

Vernon Philander is another option, but at this stage of the preparations it is difficult to see him being involved. 

Lungi Ngidi

2. Finishers down the order a problem

When one thinks of a Proteas team that boasted the likes of Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock in their lower order, it is clear that this is a problem area for the Proteas of 2018. 

Andile Phehlukwayo's technical flaws with bat in hand are there for all to see, and he is not the guy you currently want coming in to win you a game when the pressure has been turned up to maximum. 

Wiaan Mulder looks a good enough player, but does he have the muscle and clean-hitting ability to go at 12-an-over when it matters most? 

The rain-affected 4th ODI saw the Proteas find a way to lose, somehow, from a position where they should have cantered home. 

Nobody was guiltier than David Miller, who could not get the job done. 

Miller's role in this side is crucial. He is a player entrusted with finishing off innings and getting the Proteas over the line. 

But, with a return of just 85 runs from 4 innings, the 109-ODI veteran still has some convincing to do. 

The likes of Farhaan Behardien will be waiting for their chance. 

Andile Phehlukwayo 

3. De Kock and Amla save Proteas one headache

One area where the Proteas are settled is at the top of their order, where Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla remain the most obvious opening pair. 

Amla is still far from his best - he averaged just 32.20 in the series - but he did show glimpses of being on the right track. 

His partnership with De Kock just works. 

The left-hand/right-hand combination is one thing, but De Kock spoke last week of the calming influence that Amla has on his batting. 

Both players are adaptable enough to change their approach depending on the match situation, both have the ability to win matches by themselves and together they are a major weapon for the Proteas heading into next year. 

The pair averaged just 39.6 for the opening partnership in Sri Lanka, which wasn't helped by Amla's first-ball duck on Sunday.

Quinton de Kock

4. Spin troubles are very, very real

Sunday's final ODI in Colombo showed that South Africa's troubles against spin bowling are not limited to the Test arena. 

Akila Dananjaya picked up six wickets in the match and 14 in the series as the Proteas struggled to pick him throughout.

Thinking that spin will not be a factor in England is also a mistake. 

Just because the World Cup will be played in England does not mean that wickets and conditions will favour seam bowling and nothing else. 

ODI wickets around the world these days are generally flat, and England will be no different. 

Spin bowling will play a major role, and if South Africa are to lift their first ever World Cup trophy, they will have to be a lot better in that department.

Aiden Markram 

5. Duminy emerges as key to life after AB

JP Duminy impressed in the series, scoring 227 runs at an average of 56.75

Thanks to the retirement of AB de Villiers, the Proteas need new middle-order match-winners. 

Duminy, along with skipper Du Plessis, will be key in that regard. 

Often criticised for his inconsistency at international level, Duminy has played with purpose and freedom throughout this series. 

It looks as if his retirement from Test cricket has done wonders for his ODI game. 

De Villiers' absence is a huge loss for South Africa, and it leaves the middle-order exposed. 

Aiden Markram struggled immensely in Sri Lanka while Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen are inexperienced at this level. 

The likes of Themba Bavuma and Khaya Zondo might still come into the middle-order conversation, but Duminy is looking increasingly important to the Proteas cause.

JP Duminy

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