Proteas change it up to blossom again

It would be an overstatement to say that the aura around the Proteas has turned after their one-day international (ODI) against-the-odds triumph over England on Tuesday at Newlands. However, the refreshing setup employed for this series could be a blueprint that alters their traditional narrative and allows room for a new growth trajectory.

For starters, nine replacements have been made to the Proteas squad since they last played an ODI, which was at the World Cup, and six of those nine players are ODI debutants. The squad is also much younger than the side that travelled to England last winter as it boasts an average age of 25, compared with the former squad’s average age of 30.

It could be seen as an attempt by the Proteas’ selectors to go for broke, but former Proteas batsman Alviro Petersen believes that it is a calculated decision, as players need to be tested at this level so that management can see where they stand and what areas need to be worked on in the future.

“With the team being new, young and inexperienced, they definitely need time to gain experience, however, that time can’t be unlimited. I would guess about 12 months would be enough time to gain experience and gel as a team,” Petersen said.

And although former Proteas spin bowler Paul Adams agrees with Petersen to an extent, he has already enjoyed the positivity that this refreshing South Africa side showed against England on Tuesday.

“For now it is trial and error for the Proteas, but they’ll [new players] ease into it. For instance, if you take JJ [Jon-Jon] Smuts in Tuesday’s ODI, he showed his character and, more importantly, he showed his versatility with the ball in hand and we also know that he can bat,” Adams said.

Furthermore, the captaincy for this series has been changed, which has been welcomed across the country. The new ODI captain, Quinton de Kock, now has the added responsibility of leadership, together with his already heavy load of opening the batting and his keeping duties behind the stumps.

However, Petersen said that after the performance De Kock produced in the first ODI match on Tuesday, it is obvious that he is relishing this responsibility.

“I said it for years — he can do all of it. Quinton is a great reader of the game and he showed last night that he can keep, captain and score runs, as well as produce match-winning innings,” Petersen said.

Adams believes that the Proteas understand the implications that these responsibilities might have on de Kock, but they have thought past them and have a “plan B” in store.

“Quinton obviously wants to do what he is doing, but Kyle Verreynne has also been included in this squad and he is a wicketkeeper and we’ve tried this before at Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League, [when] Quinton went into the field and Verreynne stood behind the stumps,” Adams said.

“It adds a different balance to the team and it is the combination we need to try moving forward,” he added.

For now, De Kock’s men will be focused on claiming a series victory over the world champions, as well as avenging the demoralising defeats they received in the Test series. The chips will be placed on them too, especially in Sunday’s pink ODI, as they have lost only one of seven matches when sporting their lucky colour.

For Adams, a series win will not only bring confidence to the squad but also restore pride in the Protea name. If they lose the remaining fixtures, he fears such a poor performance will have far-reaching consequences for the team, especially with Australia heading here in less than a month.

Get to know the new faces in the Proteas team

With the national cricket team in freefall of late, South Africa overhauled the squad for the Proteas’ one-day international (ODI) series against England. The Mail & Guardian takes a look at some of the debutants.

Janneman Malan

Janneman Malan is a right handed opening batsman. He appeared in the T20 series against Pakistan in February 2019, during which he scored 35 runs in two matches. He topped the batting charts at last year’s Africa T20 Cup, during which he produced lots of rapid runs, including the performance of the tournament, which saw him score 128 runs off 67 balls.

Malan’s local first-class and one-day game records are proof that if he has more overs to set himself at the crease, he can inflict massive damage upfront.

Malan has a first-class average of 50.36 and has scored more than 3000 runs in 38 matches, notching up 11 centuries along the way.

Kyle Verreynne

Kyle Verreynne is a wicketkeeper and another promising batsman with an average of 50.72 in first-class cricket and 17 half-centuries to his name. He was also South Africa A’s stand out performer against India in 2019.

He is known for playing hard-hitting cameos in the middle of
an innings, much like Justin
Kemp would do back in the early 2000s.

Bjorn Fortuin  

Although Bjorn Fortuin is an all rounder, his ability with the ball in hand is more significant. The left-arm spinner showcased his prime attributes on the subcontinent when the Proteas played a T20 series against India last year. He also boasts 55 wickets in 46 local one-day games with an economy rate of just more than four runs an over.

Lutho Sipamla

Being a right-arm fast medium bowler, Lutho Sipamla does not average a wicket per game in local one-day cricket and has an economy rate that is a tad expensive at 5.55 runs an over. However, Sipamla’s performance against England in his ODI debut on Tuesday showed that he brings agility to the field, an attribute the Proteas sorely lacked in their World Cup campaign.

In the big league: Eastern Province teammates bowler Lutho Sipamla (left) and allrounder JJ Smuts both made their one-day international debut against England on Tuesday. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Jon-Jon Smuts

Jon-Jon Smuts or the player better known as “JJ” made himself a part of the Proteas T20 squad after significant performances against Sri Lanka in February last year and looked comfortable when making his first start in an ODI on Tuesday. The all-rounder can score runs, coming in at number four in the batting line-up, and his orthodox spin bowling has an economy rate that suggests he can limit sides from achieving high run rates in the middle overs of a match.

Sisanda Magala

Sisanda Magala is a proven wicket-taker in local cricket. He averages a wicket every five overs and has a total of four five-wicket-hauls in local list A games. However, these wickets do come at a price: an economy rate of almost 6 runs an over. The 29-year-old’s ability is not in doubt, but he will need to develop greater composure when he dons the Proteas shirt for the first time.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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