There have been more glimmers of hope during the course of the South African cricket summer than the raw numbers attest to, but one of the brightest spots has come at the tail end.
The Proteas have trialled new faces and given a few old ones another go across a summer where South Africa had to be content with a team that was losing but learning.
Janneman Malan’s ton in Bloemfontein ensured that the Proteas don’t end the summer without a series win, but his knock has significance beyond a three-match bilateral series.
There wasn’t much on the line in this series, but Australia still brought most of their heavy artillery to bear, and they were well beaten in the first two matches.
Malan didn’t start his innings in any great position of authority in the team, although he has been earmarked as an exciting talent for some time.
Resilience is something the Proteas have to have in spades and Malan showed he can hang on for dear life with the best of them. Batting with Jon-Jon Smuts in a stuttering Proteas consolidation effort didn’t help Malan settle.
As the match wore on, though, Malan began to take risks, some that paid off, and some that the opener was lucky to get away with – but who dares wins, as they say.
Proteas fans on social media went on the emotional journey with Malan, and as he came into his own, the team surged over the line for what was, in the end, a comfortable win achieved in the 49th over of the chase.
The surface in Bloemfontein offered some unique challenges, but Malan’s ability to overcome and find a way to play a forceful brand of cricket is precisely what the Proteas need.
Another huge positive for the Proteas has been the form of a resurgent Heinrich Klaasen. Klaasen and Malan turned the tide for the Proteas with their batting styles dovetailing through the middle overs. Klaasen’s hitting power and running between the wickets did wonders for Malan.
The performance was an enormous boost to the Proteas who rested their two most reliable white-ball batsmen from 2019 for this ODI series.
A moment to savour came when Malan reached his century by squeezing a Mitchell Starc yorker to the third-man boundary. Starc had yorked Malan for a first-ball duck on his ODI debut in Paarl.
Malan’s innings and series are a lesson in resilience for the learning Proteas, and a beacon of the bold, brave white-ball cricket CSA wants the team to play.
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