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Ken Borland

Proteas head to the World Cup with tails up, thanks to all-round Jansen show

Posted on September 17, 2023 by Ken

Marco Jansen took a career-best five for 39 with the ball, and also scored an explosive 47 with the bat.

The Proteas will head to the World Cup with their tails up after they completed a brilliant come-from-behind series win over Australia on Sunday, their 122-run victory in the fifth ODI at the Wanderers being their third on the trot.

Chasing 316 for victory, Australia had their customary fast start as they reached 124 for two in the 20th over, but they then faded away amidst the fall of regular wickets, one of the World Cup favourites slipping to 193 all out before another 15 overs were bowled, thereby surrendering a five-match series they led 2-0.

Marco Jansen was the destroyer-in-chief, revelling in the pace and bounce available at the Wanderers to claim a career-best five for 39 in eight overs. Twelve of those runs technically came off one delivery as he bowled successive no-balls and was hit for a four and a six by Mitchell Marsh. The Australian captain was the main threat in the chase, striking some mighty blows as he powered to 71 off 56 deliveries.

The beanpole left-hander took the first five wickets to fall and is only the second South African to achieve this feat in ODIs. The great all-rounder Shaun Pollock did it twice, also at the Wanderers, against England in 2000 and Pakistan in 2007*.

And then the classy left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj was too much for the tail as he took four for 33 in 9.1 overs, also a career-best.

Jansen also answered one of the troubling questions surrounding this South African side: Do they have a proper all-rounder to fill the key number seven slot?

The 23-year-old showed his batting ability as he smacked an almost arrogant 47 off just 23 balls, also his highest score in ODIs. He came in with the innings at a crossroads on 212 for five in the 42nd over, Aiden Markram having just fallen for an elegant, high-quality 93 off just 87 balls.

It had been tough going up front for the home team after they were sent in to bat on a tacky pitch which allowed the ball to do a lot. They had been reduced to 103 for four in the 24th over, but the calm and experienced heads of Markram and David Miller (63 off 65 balls) put them back on an even keel and the Proteas then dominated the tailend of the innings.

Another all-rounder, Andile Phehlukwayo, also took the chance to shine although he is not in South Africa’s World Cup squad. At least not yet as injuries to Sisanda Magala and Anrich Nortje could see him get a late call-up. He was playing on Sunday due to Kagiso Rabada resting a sore ankle.

Phehlukwayo finished the innings in sensational fashion, blasting 39 not out off just 19 balls, with four sixes. The left-hander plundered 24 off the last over bowled by Michael Neser to lift the Proteas to an above-par score. They really should have been 292 all out but Australia messed up a golden opportunity to run out last man Lungi Ngidi at the bowler’s end as Phehlukwayo came back for two in the final over.

Coach Rob Walter was measured in his delight, refusing to entertain thoughts that Australia have been sent from these shores with their tails between their legs, but chuffed by how the Proteas bounced back from their five-match losing run including the T20s.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion either side of winning and losing, but it’s important to stay level and understand where we are as a team and what we are working towards.

“The best thing about the series win was that we won in different ways: In Potchefstroom we won through spin, at Centurion through pace and today was an all-round performance. We have progressed and improved in all departments and we’re closer to playing good cricket than we were when we started.

“I would be very careful though to read too much into beating Australia and what it means for the World Cup. Conditions might be very different in India, even though we have won with both pace and spin, and their team will change considerably.

“You’re going to have Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc coming at you and they’ll have a couple of other batsmen too. Plus Australia know how to play at a World Cup,” Walter said.

Before the series, South Africa faced questions over the number seven spot and a potentially long tail when they are batting. Jansen averaged 33.50 in the series and scored at a strike-rate of 125.23 – you can’t ask for much more in that position.

“Marco has such huge potential and we saw a bit of that today in the way he contributed with both bat and ball. But he has so much more in the tank, he’s not even close to his ceiling and I’ll be pushing him to achieve that.

“Andile is part of our broader squad and he showed with the bat how capable he is, that innings was highly influential in the match because chasing 270 is very different to 315. He played a massive role today and got an important wicket. It’s great to see him come in and contribute,” Walter said.

The man of the match plaudit, however, belonged to Jansen. The amiable Potchefstroom product confirmed that he just loves to bat; bowling is more like a job for him.

“My main focus is with the ball and taking wickets is expected of me, that’s my primary role. But I’m happier batting, I enjoy that a lot more, I like batting a lot, so I enjoy the hard work I’ve put into it,” Jansen smiled.

“I’ve improved my options a lot. When I started playing for the Proteas, certain shots were my go-to, like against a spinner I would slog-sweep over cow-corner. Now I feel I can play more off the back foot, I can manoeuvre in the crease. And I’m not just trying to plant my foot and hit every ball for six over cow, I can get the other batsman on strike, I can rotate.

“It’s a bit more responsibility as an all-rounder, but it’s important to go out and enjoy it. Luckily I really enjoy batting and just go out and try and express myself. Bowling feels more like my day job.”

Jansen took both his proper job and his ‘hobby’ to new levels on Sunday and he will go to the World Cup as one of several question marks that have been answered for the Proteas.

They will board a plane to India on Saturday, with both Nortje and Magala having to bowl in the nets in the coming days to prove they are pain-free and able to participate in the World Cup.

*Stats kindly supplied by CSA official statistician Andrew Samson.

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