We take a look at five key points of discussion ahead of the one-off ODI against Ireland on Sunday.
EYE AND A HALF ON AUS
This is very much the curtain-raiser to the five-match series against the Aussies, but that’s not to say that the Proteas won’t take this match seriously. Creating the balance between winning momentum and introducing two or three new faces will be the priority here, as they look to exercise their resources with next year’s Champions Trophy becoming the focus in this format. Some form for the likes of JP Duminy, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien will come in handy too, for they won’t want to go into the Aus series underprepared and low on confidence.
Perhaps a bit harsh on the Irish to come to the southern tip of Africa and play in Benoni for both of their matches, but the Proteas won’t mind too much, as they’ve only lost once in eight matches stretching back to 1997. Their decent record might be down to playing against weaker opposition, and their one defeat was indeed against tier-one opposition in Sri Lanka in 2002. It’s a stadium used to hosting a handful of Titans games but more predominantly provincial matches for Easterns. The last time SA played here was in 2013 against Pakistan and before that Zimbabwe in 2010. It’s about time the East Rand were treated to some international cricket.
Ireland have become a household name for giant-killing (see our piece on great underdog performances) but this doesn’t extend to the Proteas, who boast a 4-0 record against the European minnows. Of course, it was in the 2015 World Cup when the Proteas scored 411-4 against them to become the first side in history to score more than 400 in successive games (408-5 against West Indies three days previously) before beating them by 201 runs. Ireland are a team with a lot of passion and pride, and always go into their games thinking they can win it. They will be without the services of their star player Ed Joyce, who scored 1026 runs at an average of 64.12 in the English County Championship last season. They still have regular county players in Paul Sterling and Tim Murtagh to unsettle the hosts.
Something Proteas fans can look forward to is potentially, and probably, three debutants in Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius. Russell Domingo revealed on Thursday that Bavuma will open the batting, which gives the Test star a golden opportunity to show his worth in this format. With an average of 26.73 in List-A cricket and an average of 15 in last year’s Momentum One Day Cup, the selectors have gone on a hunch more than anything, but he’s proven that he’s got the temperament for the highest level, and should he repay the selector’s faith with a solid performance, we might just see more of him in this format. The same goes for hard-hitting Lions all-rounder Pretorius, who has an extended chance to show what he’s capable of after being drafted into the team for the Aus series after the injury to Chris Morris, and it will be exciting to see what Phehlukwayo can deliver at the highest level.
AB de Villiers’ various injuries, of which the latest is one to his elbow which may or may not require surgery, is a lingering issue that is starting to loom over the Proteas camp. Will he play in the ODI series against Aus? Will he make the Test series trip Down Under? No one, not even team doctor Mohammed Moosajee, knows at this stage. They will have to carry on without him, and there’s no reason why they can’t. I mentioned in my column last month that they should march on without him in this format, and I agree with Domingo when he said that they have the batting resources to cope without him. In their massive win against Ireland last year, it was Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla who scored centuries in that game. Throw in a resurgent Quinton de Kock, a desperate to return to form David Miller, JP Duminy and Rilee Rossouw, and Theunis de Bruyn and Qaasim Adams waiting in the wings. There are plenty of options there.
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