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Ken Borland

Disappointing Proteas are going to need to stamp out this infuriating inconsistency

Posted on April 19, 2022 by Ken

The Proteas really are extremely hard work for their fans, the latest grave distress they have inflicted on them being their hugely disappointing series loss to Bangladesh in the ODIs.

It is Bangladesh’s first series win in South Africa in all formats and they are going to be favourites now going into the two-Test series. Conditions at Kingsmead and St George’s Park are probably going to be low and slow, the Proteas are missing five frontline players who have chosen to go to the IPL instead and the tourists certainly have all the momentum with them.

How South Africa managed to lose to Bangladesh in a three-match series on the Highveld, with plentiful bounce on offer in all three games, is baffling though and the shockwaves are going to reverberate around the ODI team for a while.

What makes the loss even more dismaying is how poorly they played in the deciding match and also the fact that this same team, minus Kagiso Rabada, beat India 3-0 in their previous engagement.

It is this infuriating inconsistency that the Proteas are going to have to stamp out. Several wins are required for them to qualify automatically for the World Cup next year and South Africa are certainly not going to be contenders unless there is a greater steadiness to the execution of their 50-over skills.

Top limited-overs teams always talk about intent these days and that was rather lacking from the Proteas batsmen. Intent is, of course, easier to show once a partnership has taken control of the innings and one of the major differences between the Bangladesh and Indian series was that South Africa had major partnerships in the latter. Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen both scored hundreds in their incredible partnership in the first ODI, openers Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock took the Proteas to 212/2 in the 35th over in the second match, and centurion De Kock and Van der Dussen shared a crucial stand of 144 in the last game.

The overs after the fall of a wicket are always a tricky time for the batting side, but in the deciding match against Bangladesh, Malan, who had started at about a run-a-ball, inexplicably went into his shell after De Kock’s dismissal. He had 28 off 31 balls at the end of the over before the wicketkeeper holed out at long-off, but then began leaving balls outside off stump and was eventually dismissed for 39 off 56 deliveries.

That innings included seven fours, which points to the fact that Malan was too block-block-block-four-block-block-block in his innings; De Kock had only faced eight balls at the time of his dismissal in the seventh over, the lack of rotation of strike probably causing frustration.

Malan (65.09), Bavuma (59.32) and Kyle Verreynne (74.57) all had strike-rates of below 80 in the series; 80 should always be the benchmark in decent batting conditions. Bangladesh certainly showed that as none of their batsmen scored at less than 74 runs per 100 balls.

South Africa also need to look at the composition of their attack. Simply choosing the Test bowlers and adding Tabraiz Shamsi and an all-rounder like Phehlukwayo or Pretorius is not cutting it in ODI cricket.

Different, specialist skills are needed, especially at the death. If Rabada and Lungi Ngidi don’t strike up front then they are in trouble, generally needing Shamsi to bail them out in the middle overs.

There also clearly needs to be a discussion over whether the fitness tests are helping the team or hurting them. While Lizelle Lee was able to join the Women’s World Cup squad late and lacking match fitness, Sisanda Magala was ruled out of the Bangladesh series because he failed a fitness test. While taking bags full of wickets for the Central Gauteng Lions, scoring vital lower-order runs and generally showing the skills so sorely lacking in the Proteas attack.

And it seems the Proteas need a full-time sports psychologist in camp as well.

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