Five talking points from South Africa’s emphatic 201-run victory over Ireland in Canberra on Tuesday.
1. De facto de Kock
South African fans are often quick to pin blame on individuals, rather than overall themes, leaving Quinton de Kock thoroughly in the firing line. True, the youngster’s World Cup campaign is off to an unimpressive start. Yes, his last 16 ODI innings have yielded a weak average of less than 23. The joint second-fasted to reach 1,000 runs in this format of the game, de Kock’s second 1,000 is taking a veritable eternity to arrive. Now is not the time to drop him, though, partly because AB de Villiers must not be lumped with the dual role of wicketkeeper and batsman. There is, indeed, room to push de Kock down the order – and have, say, fellow left-hander Rilee Rossouw open the batting. Arriving at the crease at positions six or seven, however, isn’t necessarily going to decrease the pressure on the young man’s shoulders.
2. Statistically speaking
Plenty were disappointed by Hashim Amla’s inability to join West Indian Chris Gayle as a 2015 World Cup double-centurion, but the South African’s 159 boasted numerous intriguing statistics regardless. He now has more ODI runs than the late Hansie Cronje (5616), as many centuries as de Villiers (20) – and has been involved in three 247-run partnerships this year. The 31-year-old, too, has scored a limited-overs century against 11 countries; Ireland joined a growing list that includes all the Test-playing nations and Netherlands but is missing Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.
3. Spin for the win
Ireland bowled as many all of 30 overs of spin on Tuesday, as talented trio George Dockrell, Paul Stirling and Andy McBrine strung together a relatively cheap, collective economy rate – while the seamers eventually travelled to all corners of the Manuka Oval. Conditions in Canberra, rather slow, demanded as much. Faf du Plessis and Amla, as was the case against the West Indies, were very calculated – occasionally advancing down the track, frequently playing from deep in the crease. There remains great value in taking the pace off the ball in a format largely ruled by the bat. South Africa, it is understood, are strongly considering playing two specialist spinners against Australia, especially if aspiring all-rounder JP Duminy is unavailable – if or when that showdown beckons.
4. Proof is in the pursuit
Former batsman Herschelle Gibbs has waxed lyrical about South Africa’s need to prove their ability in chasing big targets – and the point is even more valid after Tuesday’s one-sided result. It’s all well and good winning the toss and batting first, subsequently catapulting to back-to-back 400-plus totals against the West Indies and Irish. The alternative – if triumphant at the flip of the coin – must be considered against Pakistan, perhaps, and the UAE, definitely. Chasing rather than setting hefty totals will almost certainly be a major requirement through the quarter-finals and beyond. With a berth in the knockout stage all but secured, the remainder of the group stage demands adequate preparation and experimentation.
5. Steyn on cue
Ireland, for all their lauded status as great chasers, were never really going to challenge an imposing total, especially if fast bowler Dale Steyn delivered on cue. Marking his 100th ODI with the key dismissals of Stirling and former England international Ed Joyce, the pace ace ensured opposition sporting the services of two of the fastest centurions in World Cup history – Stirling and Kevin O’Brien – were not going to be in with even a nominal shout. Much has been made of the reasonably low-key start to Steyn’s campaign in Australasia – and there is a fine line between wrapping one’s star bowler in cotton wool and genuinely unleashing him too late. Most signs, however, are pointing toward the team and the individual finding the right balance as the business end of the tournament draws near.