A great way to bounce back
Having absolutely annihilated Pakistan in the first one day international (ODI) at Chevrolet Park in Bloemfontein, the Proteas will be elated that they have got the wolves away from the door and all the talk is about a winning side once again.
However, it important to point out that one swallow does not make a summer and it will be imperative that the performances for the rest of the series are on par with what was displayed in the capital of the Free State.
It was a particularly impressive victory for the South African ODI side. The result was an emphatic statement to the Pakistanis but more so to the Proteas themselves as the camp needed to bounce back after the mauling the T20 side received at Centurion in the only completed match of that two-match series. While some may say the two limited overs formats need to be separated, it could well have influenced how things went in the 50 over matches. Were the Proteas to lose, it surely would have been pounced upon by the scribes and also lowered moral in the change room.
The most pleasing aspect of the victory in the first ODI is how it was effected and largely by whom. It was not a case of one of the usual suspects doing well and then on the strength of that performance winning being a formality with only minor supporting roles played by the rest of the cast. The likes of Colin Ingram and Farhaan Behardien in the batting as well as Rory Kleinveldt and Ryan McLaren with the ball made significant contributions, which will do wonders for their confidence.
It is vitally important in this building and experimental phase that the less established members of the Proteas side stand up and be counted. They need to use the opportunities that they get very well and ensure that they are putting themselves forward as apt replacements for the big guns who have been at it for a long time and have proven that they can do the job.
It was great to see AB de Villiers walk in at number three, particularly because the spinners, who are Pakistan’s trump card, were on in tandem at the time. De Villiers is able to play both spin and pace equally well but I would say he is comfortably the best player of spin in the Proteas lineup as he is able to attack and put pressure on even the best of them. The move allowed South Africa to keep the scoreboard ticking and many more well calculated and flexible decisions will be called for as the series goes on. The middle overs were a problem during the series against New Zealand, not so in Bloemfontein.
The expectations from the side as the five-match series rolls on will be as great as they always are and selection is going to play a key role in how the side fares. There will be chopping and changing -- that has been seen in recent times and I do not expect it to change but let us hope that the young players who do well are allowed to try and get into a groove and ride the wave of their success. They need to perform well over and over again to get to a point where they believe they are well capable even under pressure.
One thing we can be sure of is that Pakistan will play well somewhere along the line and all of the Proteas' resources will be called on to combat them when they do.