Who would’ve thought that from being 48 for 3 batting first in the first ODI against Australia, the Proteas would go on to complete a 3 – 0 series whitewash?
It was a remarkable comeback from a side that has endured a tough time since September last year when they toured India. Across all the three formats, the Australian series was their seventh of the 2019/20 season. In the previous six, the Proteas were comprehensively outplayed by India (T20 and Test series), England (Test, ODI and T20 series) and Australia (T20 series).
Sandwiched between the losses to India and England were all the off-field politics at Cricket South Africa (CSA) too. This led to among other things the late announcement of the squad for the first Test against India and the dragging on of Graeme Smith’s appointment as Director of Cricket. These issues certainly didn’t help the on-field performances.
But South Africans are, if nothing else, resilient. And it showed in the Australian ODI series.
The Australian team wasn’t vastly different from the one that took them to the semi-final of the World Cup last year. In my opinion, there is also not such a thing as a weak Australian side. Arriving in Paarl for the first ODI, the Aussies would’ve been brimming with confidence from their T20 series win just three days earlier.
But from the moment Heinrich Klaasen joined Kyle Verreynne at the Paarl wicket with the score on 48 for 3, the Proteas ruled the roost for the rest of the series. The victory margins were emphatic: 74 runs in Paarl and by six wickets in both Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom.
Incredibly, Australia, with a line-up that included David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith, were bowled out twice in the series. The Proteas on the other hand only lost 15 wickets in the whole series. While the bowlers certainly played their part, the standout performers were the top six batsmen. Klaasen (playing his 15th to 17th ODI’s), debutants Verreynne and Janneman Malan and Jon Jon Smuts (playing in only his 4th and 5th ODI’s) were much better than their much-vaunted Australian counterparts.
It would’ve been good for the Proteas to end their season on a high, but unfortunately they now have the daunting challenge of a 3-match ODI series in India. India are currently second in the ODI rankings and have won eight of their last nine home bilateral series. On the other hand, the Proteas are going there with a lot of fresh faces, unscarred by battles past on the sub-continent.
The last time the Proteas crossed swords with Virat Kohli’s troops in India was on the disastrous 2015 tour. But does anyone remember that the Proteas actually won the ODI series 3-2? Can history repeat itself? I wouldn’t bet against the new-look Proteas team…