After sealing the ODI series early, South Africa’s brilliant momentum took a massive setback. They lost back to back ODIs…..
The ODI series between Sri Lanka and South Africa turned out to be a close one in the end. South Africa may have won the series, but Sri Lanka gave their opponents an excellent fight in the end and from 0-3 down, they went on to win the last two matches to make it 2-3. At the end of the final match at Colombo, it might have been South Africa celebrating behind the “Champions” plank, but they would know that they could have been much happier had they ended the series on a high note. However, after going winless for over 10 matches, Sri Lanka played some great cricket and ended the series with head held high. But did South Africa get a bit complacent?
In the absence of their captain Faf du Plessis for the final two games, it was Quinton de Kock who led South Africa for the very first time. Instead of playing his best players, with the series won, he decided to rest Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi for the fourth ODI. In a rain-curtailed match, South Africa bled over 300 runs in 39 overs and in the end, went on to lose the match by just three runs. The full-fledged South Africa bowling attach choked Sri Lanka in the first three matches, setting it up beautifully for their batsmen. However, in this match, their batsmen were entrusted to deliver, but they fell just short. South Africa did not have any answers to Akila Dananjaya in the final game and were bowled out within 25 overs.
In the end, however, Sri Lanka might have won the battle, but South Africa have won the war.
Momentum is often talked about in cricket. While some players believe in it, some do not and feel it all comes down to how one performs on that particular day. Everyone knew that the ODI series will be a completely different ball game compared to the Tests and that is what happened. South Africa were comprehensively beaten in the Test series, but a change in format provided them with a change in fortune. All their departments clicked and they did not put a foot wrong in the first three games. But a chance to complete a whitewash eluded them after du Plessis was ruled out after the first three ODIs.
South Africa, especially in the final ODI, did not seem as though they wanted to win the match. Yes, it was a brilliant spell from Dananjaya, but there were other bowlers against whom they could have taken a chance and scored some reasons after playing out the spinner. But the batsmen played one shot too many and found themselves in a hole.
Every international game is important for every team. One cannot afford to rest on their loins when they have won the series and not turn up for the remaining matches. The players have to be at the top of their games in every match, regardless of the situation. That’s what makes a great team. Experimentation is good, but only when there is a need. Unless a player has an injury or an illness, he should not be excluded from the side. The best player must always play even with the series in the bag. It was a great chance for de Kock to stamp his authority as captain, but instead, it left South Africa to dig deeper in search of a perfect replacement for du Plessis, when needed. The experiment with Aiden Markram did not work previously and this short experiment with de Kock at the helm to has not paid dividends.
South Africa still have one more game to go – A T20I – against Sri Lanka on Tuesday with JP Duminy leading the side this time. They have a chance to end this tour with a win. It has been a tough and testing tour for the Proteas – one in which they would take a lot of positives from and of course they a lot of areas where they can improve. They have found some new players put up incredible performances and also seen some of their key players step up to the plate. One thing South Africa could have done better is going for the kill in the ODI series, among other things. South Africa have not won many big tournaments and in order to be successful in such tournaments, they have to be ruthless.
They have some crucial series coming up next before the ICC World Cup 2019. The way they have played in Sri Lanka will give them a lot of confidence, but with the talent they have in their ranks, they could have done far, far better. Hopefully, the team management can see that and look for ways to improve in the coming months.