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Cricket | Sri Lanka tour of South Africa 2018/19

Imran Tahir © Getty Images

Tour Diary – Sri Lanka in South Africa, Week 4



11 MARCH

WORLD CUP SELECTION FOREMOST ON THE MIND

It's always the same just before a World Cup, increasingly so for South Africa over the course of the last 20 years. The closer we get to the event, the less interested most people are about the results - it's only the composition of the squad which matters. Except to the players themselves…

Faf du Plessis and his team mates are paid to win, it's in their DNA, but it defines what they do, not who they are. In previous years South African cricketers have had difficulty in separating the two. In Du Plessis they have a leader who understands more than most the difference between winning and being a winner.

He made the mistake himself eight years ago when he allowed his concentration to be bulldozed aside by New Zealand during the quarterfinal in Dhaka and then watched again four years later when several of his team mates were 'guilty' of trying too hard during the semifinal at Eden Park in Auckland. How can you try 'too hard' during a World Cup semifinal?

"We, in South Africa, can get white knuckles sometimes because we want to win so much," he said in a recent interview. "We must learn to trust ourselves and our ability when we get to that situation."

Sri Lanka, too, are a team of paid winners but they now have the luxury of saying that results were never the primary concern in this series. Both teams, in fact, can throw their weight squarely behind World Cup selection in the final two ODIs now that the series is decided.

It would appear that the tourists will continue to use all 17 members of their squad while it is reasonable to conclude that the Proteas have played their World Cup cards with the recall of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Aiden Markram.

Markram covers the opening berths as well as the middle order, Amla's experience outweighs his questionable form and Duminy – also immensely experienced – provides that much needed fifth or sixth bowling option.

Reeza Hendricks and Wiaan Mulder may have to console themselves with a place on the 'official reserves' list. It appears unlikely that Chris Morris will make a late charge into selection plans.

Although there are still enough games in the Momentum One-day Cup for people to make compelling cases for inclusion…


10 MARCH

DURBS WASHOUT

If Cricket South Africa’s chief operating officer, Nassei Appiah, is prepared to sell the Pink Day ODI the New Year test match to the highest bidder in future, presumably there is nothing sacrosanct and no place he and the Board are not prepared to look for extra cash. Presumably that means saving it as well as making it.

If the New Year's test can be bought away from Newlands and the Pink ODI bid away from the Wanderers, then it stands to reason that Kingsmead’s international fixtures will be the cheapest of the lot. In fact, pass the hat around for some loose change at your local club next Saturday and that might be enough to snaffle Durban’s next limited overs match, given the likelihood that it might be rained off.

If only life was that simple. There might be a thin line between common sense and cents in some businesses, but compromising cricket’s two most well-attended and financially viable fixtures is either extremely far-sighted or remarkably optimistic. Or something else.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) introduced a bidding system for their own internationals some years ago and it was fraught with difficulties. Ambitious counties over-extended themselves with inflated bids to host test matches and both Sofia Gardens in Cardiff and the Ageas Bowl in Southampton lost millions of pounds which endangered their financial security for years afterwards. Let’s hope Willowmore or Buffalo Park don’t make the same mistake.

Quinton de Kock was awesome, once again. He is a driven man. Four years ago he endured a miserable World Cup in Australasia having been rushed back from injury before he was either fit or had any semblance of form. Not that he was reluctant – he was desperate to play. But he was not ready and the results reflected that. Now he is, once again, at the peak of his powers and raring to go. No doubt he will want to play the rest of the series but, sometimes, the player doesn’t always know best. He might be better off resting the final two games and preparing for a hectic IPL in the colours of the Mumbai Indians.


6 MARCH

THE 'HIDDEN CLUE'

As far as the series is concerned, a 113-run victory against Sri Lanka in the second ODI represents an excellent day’s work.

It secured a 2-0 series lead with three matches to play and opened up the possibility of even further experimentation before the conclusion of the series.

There will be questions asked in the de-brief about the Proteas’ inability to capitalise on the flying start provided by Quinton de Kock and the disappointment of a total of 250 when 350 looked par for the course, but never mind that.

Winning is always important but there are other things at stake.

Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius were given the opportunity to go head-to-head for the ‘batting all-rounder’ spot in the first ODI and, like many of the best-laid plans, it went wrong when neither had the chance to bat.

The selectors would like to take both. There is a distinct possibility that they may like to include Chris Morris, too. But there is barely space for three all rounders with Andile Phehlukwayo a certaintly, so how could four fit into the squad?

By not taking a reserve wicket-keeper.

Titans coach Mark Boucher joined the squad for a low-key practise session two days before the Centurion ODI and worked with? Not Quinton de Kock. He spent time attempting to shave the (very) rough edges off the (extremely) part-time glovework of David Miller and (slightly less part time) Rassie van der Dussen.

It was a strong indicator that the selectors were considering creating an ‘extra’ place in the 15-man World Cup squad by not including a specialist reserve ‘keeper.

The fact that Miller took the gloves for the last few overs during the second ODI confirmed that Heinrich Klaasen’s World Cup dreams were over.

But maybe not.

Despite all ten teams naming squads of 15, injury replacements are permitted. Klaasen would only be 12-hours away from the squad should De Kock become injured or unwell, and even less should he be strategically placed in the UK on a ‘working holiday’.

It seems certain that SA’s selectors have opened an extra window for themselves. If it is not to include an extra all rounder, it may well be in the desperate hope that Hashim Amla might rediscover his best form, one final time.

Or that that they might avoid the repercussions of being the men who dropped a legend.


Week 1
Week 2
Week 3



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