Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has been rested for the final T20 International series against the West Indies in Durban on Wednesday.
Two down in the three-match series, there is little but pride and experience left to be gained. But the captain also pushed himself to the edge with his hard-running century in a losing cause at the Wanderers on Sunday. He was physically and mentally exhausted after scoring 119 off 56 balls, with 11 fours and five sixes. The boundaries were the easy part: he ran 55 from the remaining 40 balls.
Proteas manager Dr Mohammed also said Du Plessis was carrying a longstanding hip niggle.
‘Faf has been rested as a precautionary measure ahead of a busy ODI period over the next three months. Any amount of rest will be beneficial to him in the long run,’ he said.
Nevertheless, the loss of Du Plessis is greater than his scoreboard contribution, for he led from the front. It will be a demanding task for Justin Ontong, the Cobras captain, who steps up to take his place. Ontong, at least, has the Ram Slam T20 trophy on his CV, so he is well versed in the intricacies of the short format.
Not that there are too many intricacies involved in the third T20. Du Plessis has made the point often enough: Get Gayle and you are halfway there.
On current form, Chris Gayle (77 of 31 and 90 off 41) needs to get himself out, for he has treated the Proteas pace and spin attack with equal disdain. But to dismiss the remaining line-up would be insulting; Smith, Samuels, Polland, Bravo, Russell, Sammy are all capable of big scores in quick time, even if the middle order has been a little limp-wristed in the past two matches.
The Proteas secret to success just lies in getting the bowling right, every time. That bit is not so easy.
The first of the five ODIs will be in Durban on Friday.