Cape Town – Overdue for South Africa: a batsman who exhibits durability at the one-day international crease, ideally pushing on to a century and enabling others to bat around him.
The batting area of the game may well play a more pronounced role, broadly speaking, than it did in game one at Perth when the Proteas attempt to wrap up the Australian series early with triumph in the second ODI at Adelaide Oval on Friday (05:20 SA time).
Should they fail in the task, there will be everything to play for in the quick turnaround to the final clash at Hobart on Sunday.
The pitch in Adelaide is expected to be a little less spicy for the quicker men and possibly provide some turn, but still be conducive to a better likelihood of heavier scoring than occurred at Perth Stadium, where the SA pace triumvirate of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi achieved an early stranglehold – Australia eight for three, from which they never properly recovered – and lots of overs went unused.
So if this follow-up meeting turns into a more conventional type of 50-overs encounter, a greater examination of both countries’ stroke-playing line-ups also lies in store.
The Proteas’ batsmen will feel collectively under a tad less pressure, given the comfortable, six-wicket nature of victory at Perth Stadium.
But even then, captain Faf du Plessis, sensibly, didn’t get too carried away with effusive praise of his own charges, making the post-match point that a more clinical mindset might have seen South Africa win by eight or nine wickets.
All of Quinton de Kock (47), Reeza Hendricks (44) and Aiden Markram (36) got going – and with some panache at times, in each case – in Perth, but were also dismissed when “batting through” possibilities had flickered brightly for them.
That has been a slightly irksome pattern for several prior ODIs, too.
The last innings by the Proteas that can be considered acceptably close to perfect was when they won the third match in the five-game series in Sri Lanka earlier in the year – to take an unassailable 3-0 lead – after posting a formidable 363 for seven, having taken first strike at Kandy.
That knock had agreeable momentum more or less from the outset, the tourists breezing past the 100-mark with only two wickets down and then managing several further, sizeable partnerships along the road to the healthy figure.
It was the match where Reeza Hendricks, who continues to make fairly purposeful strides toward a World Cup berth, made his debut century (102) and as many as three team-mates went past fifty: JP Duminy 92, Hashim Amla 59 and David Miller 51.
But every match since then – six in total – has seen a phenomenon of SA batsmen setting solid enough foundations, yet not properly cashing in on that luxury.
That much can be gauged by looking at the abbreviated Proteas scores from those half-dozen games, including best performers statistically with the blade:
*Fourth ODI in Sri Lanka: SA 187/9, admittedly a Duckworth/Lewis-influenced chase: Amla 40, Duminy 38
*Fifth ODI in Sri Lanka: SA 121 (chasing): De Kock 54
*First home ODI against Zimbabwe: SA 119/5 (chasing): Klaasen 44, Markram 27
*Second home ODI against Zimbabwe: SA 198 (setting): Steyn 60, Markram 35
*Third home ODI against Zimbabwe: SA 231/6 (chasing): Hendricks 66, Klaasen 59, Markram 42
*First ODI in Australia: SA 153/4 (chasing): De Kock 47, Hendricks 44, Markram 36
The relative novice Heinrich Klaasen, not yet assured of his status in the side, was guilty twice in the Zimbabwe series of giving his wicket away when he should have instead hammered final nails into the neighbours’ modest coffin.
But an even more noticeable common denominator on that list above is the name of Aiden Markram, who has too regularly shown evidence of a “twenties and thirties virus” – it goes a long way to explaining why his ODI career hasn’t yet taken off in the manner his Test one has.
Markram sports 356 runs at 25.42 after 14 ODIs, and not scored fewer than 20 runs in any of his last five innings … but also not more than 42.
He looked in encouraging command in Perth, only to chop on a wide delivery from medium-pacer Marcus Stoinis with victory — and a handy not-out for him — a tantalising 10 runs away.
The 24-year-old from the Titans, also not yet a dead-cert for CWC 2019 when you consider that room will have to be made for currently injured Hashim Amla and JP Duminy in the batting plans, has been considerably more prolific at Test level thus far, with his 1,040 runs from a dozen appearances at 47.27 and four centuries – three of those around the 150-mark, as well.
Just considering that they have chased targets in five of their last six ODIs, and not always of the most taxing kind, it would be useful with the World Cup in mind if the Proteas get the opportunity to set one instead in Adelaide, against the home team’s own strong attack.
At least one noticeably lengthy vigil from an individual would be doubly welcome, and reasonably drought-breaking into the bargain …
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