For all the drama of the second ODI and the 2-0 success of the Proteas in the series, there remain many unknowns in the make-up of the team ahead of the World Cup.
And unless the West Indies stand up to fight in the third ODI in East London on Wednesday, those unknowns will remain.
Proteas captain AB de Villiers is enthusiastic about the line-up as presented in the first ODI, won by 61 runs with a Duckworth-Lewis calculation, but the overwhelming 148-run victory in Johannesburg served only to skew the picture.
The middle-order has not yet been tested to any great extent, and it is there where the uncertainty lies. Although it must surely be accepted that Miller must bat as high as possible and leave the likes of JP Duminy to shepherd the tail if required.
In the first ODI, the innings fell away alarmingly after De Villiers was dismissed for 81, when the score was on 246 in the 41st over. It required a surge from players who are under scrutiny and edgy after their selection raised eyebrows. But surge there was none, and the next five wickets went down for 33, to which Duminy and Farhaan Behardien contributed 12 apiece.
The meat of the innings came from Hashim Amla (66), David Miller (70) and De Villiers. At least Rilee Rossouw has eased concerns over his temperament, following his fifth zero in 10 innings with a well-constructed 123 in the second ODI, which went almost unnoticed in the aftermath of the De Villiers demolition.
Rossouw took a while to settle, and he found great support in Amla, who he described as ‘a pillar of strength’. De Villiers went out of his way to acknowledge the Knights’ opener’s maiden ton: ‘It was a fantastic knock,’ he said. ‘No-one has ever doubted his talent and his ability to win games. I still think there is much more to come.’
The problem lies in where Rossouw will find himself once Quinton de Kock is back in action after his injury lay-off, and he could be down at seven. And there is not much time to find out, with three more ODIs against the West Indies, starting on Wednesday in East London, and two warm-up games, against Sri Lanka (Feb 9) and New Zealand (Feb 11) in Christchurch, before the first World Cup match, against Zimbabwe.
Added to that, the captain and the selectors said they wanted to give the whole squad a run-out in this series, which further muddies the waters. They need to take a chance with selection and test the mettle of those who have been on the sidelines.
Hashim Amla wasn’t giving anything away in a press conference yesterday, when he said: ‘In terms of preparation, it would be great for us to get three wins in a row. When going to the World Cup you need to have good momentum with you and you need to get into a rhythm of winning match after match to make sure you go into the qualifying rounds in a good position. With that in mind, I think it’s important for us to win this game and to keep that winning mindset.’