South African cricket went through a deplorable 2019 and it certainly looked as if it were only going to get worse in 2020 after they were mauled by England in a Test series in January. But, the recent one-day international (ODI) series against the same opponents has afforded the average South African fan a chance to smile.
The youthful zest injected into the squad brought much promise and excitement, as displayed in the first ODI at Newlands, but the raw nature of the squad was evident in the loss at the Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
Nevertheless, former Proteas all-rounder David Terbrugge told the Mail & Guardian that the Proteas “got what they hoped for out of the series” and it now gives coach Mark Boucher a good platform to figure out both where he stands as a coach and what he needs to do to improve this squad going forward.
Former Proteas bowler Wayne Parnell is not so quick to agree, arguing that the style of cricket England plays makes it a difficult series to assess players.
“They [England] look to be very positive and if the wicket doesn’t allow that, then they can be found out,” Parnell said. “So on wickets where it is not so good for batting, like the Newlands wicket, they were found out and then when they went to a Wanderers wicket, which was better, they found a way to win it.”
Competition for number three
This ODI series also saw Temba Bavuma silence the detractors who have questioned his limited overs game. Bavuma fell shy of a century by two runs in the first ODI, but failed to get going in the third match. His 98 runs in the first match bettered any innings that the Proteas’ first-choice number three, Aiden Markram, has managed to conjure up in any of the 26 ODIs he has played. Markram has managed only two half centuries in his Proteas career with a top score of 67.
However, both Parnell and Terbrugge believe that both players possess enough quality to exist in the setup simultaneously, with the former saying that it will spark a sense of competitiveness as both players prefer batting at number three, while the latter believes their different playing styles will help the side on the whole.
“There’s space for both Markram and Bavuma in the ODI squad. I think Markram is a very modern player. He’s big, strong and powerful and he hits the ball very hard and tries to put pressure on the bowler and he’s got that something extra. We can’t afford to write him off,” Terbugge said.
“For me, Bavuma has always been under pressure when playing and always been in the middle when the team is under pressure, so this series must have been very liberating for him. I think Markram and Bavuma would actually complement each other in that top order,” Terbrugge added.
Bavuma will have another chance to prove himself in limited-overs cricket in the three-match Twenty20 series. He scored 49 and 27 in his only two previous T20 matches, against India on a tour of the subcontinent last year.
This is a very similar squad to the touring party that drew the series against India, with one exception: the return of Dale Steyn. The speedster will be donning the Proteas attire for the first time in just less than a year after suffering a shoulder injury before the World Cup.
Steyn is now 36 years old and most would argue that his best years are behind him, but Terbrugge and Parnell agree that his experience is critical in the change room. They also believe he still has more to give to the sport and could be on the plane to Australia for the T20 World Cup as a leading seamer come October.
For now, however, Terbrugge said that whether they win this T20 series or not, the “new approach” that the Proteas have taken by including youngsters in international series will prove to be vital. This means they are improving their squad depth, so that players are not just thrown into the deep end when a World Cup comes along.
For Parnell, it is important to keep an eye on the World Cup, but he insists that it is also time to sit back and enjoy the uncertainty and entertainment that we will be on display in this T20 series and the upcoming Australia tour.