JOHANNESBURG – The Proteas, under the leadership of stand-in skipper Keshav Maharaj, played some brilliant cricket as they completed a series whitewash over Sri Lanka.
IOL Sport Stuart Hess takes a look at five things we learned during the series.
Fielding – The improvements seen in the Caribbean, still need to be upgraded, but more importantly is the need for consistency. Mistakes will happen in the field, but what the Proteas need to do is limit them. Back-to-back misfields that turned singles into boundaries as happened at the start of the fifth over in the last match, illustrate bad discipline. Players and coaches have talked of the need to polish up in that area, and the World Cup will be the ultimate testing area to see if that occurs.
Kagiso Rabada – Two good performances on the tour - the second ODI and the second T20 – otherwise he was inconsistent, his rhythm didn’t look good and his energy appeared to be lacking. How much of that had to do with a rolled ankle suffered in that second ODI, we don’t know. The IPL provides an opportunity for him to find some form ahead of the World Cup. He’s a very important player – both for the Delhi Capitals and the Proteas.
Aiden Markram – De Kock got the man of the series award, but it could easily have gone to Markram. The fuss about Faf du Plessis is understandable, but Markram provided food for thought; what about a no.3 batsman, who could do what Faf does with the bat, field like Faf does in the deep, and also bowl four overs, which Faf hasn’t done since his 20s? Markram finished the series as the third highest run-scorer and joint second highest wicket-taker for South Africa. He has quickly become a very important player for SA in the shortest format.
Leadership – In Bavuma’s absence, Maharaj stepped to the fore and displayed excellent captaincy skills over the course of five matches (two ODIs and the three T20s). Once Bavuma returns, South Africa does have a very good leadership unit on the field – Bavuma, Maharaj and De Kock being the central three. Only De Kock has experience of playing in an ICC event – and extensive experience in competitions like the IPL and The Hundred – so marshalling the rest of the squad through a tournament will be vital. The addition of JP Duminy to the coaching staff will play a big role in that regard too.
Batting – Yes, South Africa weren’t tested enough by Sri Lanka (nor Ireland for that matter), but there was enough, taking into consideration the first two matches of the One-Day series, to indicate that there has been an improvement playing against spin. The batsmen have used the sweep shot very well, and taken options to ‘widen’ the crease (moving left or right) to access space in the outfield. The flip-side obviously was that collapse in the third ODI, which should make everyone wary that they need to continually work to improve that element in the Proteas’s play.