Proteas rule the roost

Victory at the Waca has elevated South Africa to No 1 on the ODI rankings.

Debutant Lonwabo Tsotsobe took four wickets to close out the final ODI against Australia allowing the Proteas to record a 4-1 series win. Mickey Arthur was left eating his own words, his claims that the Proteas were not ready for the burden of No 1 status rubbished by a team missing Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn.

The Proteas climbed to 288-6 after starting at a crawl, and it was the middle order that did the job for the visitors once again. Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers shared a partnership reminiscent of their previous outing, putting on 118 until De Villiers holed out in the deep.

Amla hung around until he wafted at a James Hopes nothing ball, edging it and in the process throwing away a deserved century.

This left the Proteas’ hopes of a strong finish squarely on JP Duminy’s shoulders. The young maestro didn’t disappoint and together with the lower order scored 92 runs in the final 10 overs.

Duminy and Botha demonstrated deft touches of improvisation in the final overs, leaving alice-banded Australian miser Nathan Bracken’s bowling figures in tatters.

In contrast Australia’s chase was shaky at the offset. They lost Shaun Marsh and Ricky Ponting to sharp catches in Tsotsobe’s first spell. Wayne Parnell saw to the dismissal of David Warner as a straight drive ricocheted from Parnell’s hand and cannoned into the stumps at the non strikers end. It seemed to be South Africa’s day.

The home side regained their composure with the Hussey brothers at the crease, but the time they took to steady the ship ultimately sank it. Their 69-run partnership was ended by the Botha-Duminy combination that plagued the Australian death bowlers.

Michael Hussey continued after the fall of his brother reaching 78 with Brad Haddin capitalizing on a well-timed batting powerplay to blast the Australians into serious contention. His 63 brought the game into a tense final five overs, but it was not enough to deny the South Africans victory and the ODI crown.

The standouts with the ball for the Proteas were Tsotsobe and Botha, who produced a tight spell spectators have come to expect from the Proteas skipper in this series.

Though the Proteas have stood head and shoulders above the Australians, Arthur’s belief that both the Test and ODI top spots should be secured and consolidated at home remains valid.

South Africa’s No 1 ranking will be temporarily relinquished if Australia overcomes New Zealand on 1 February. Looking at New Zealand’s form against the lack-luster West Indies, a much needed Aussie victory seems more than likely in the trans-Tasman clash.

Perhaps more telling than taking the No 1 ranking is Botha’s faith in the talent of debutants Parnell and Tsotsobe, who were trusted with the responsibility of bowling out the innings. The ability to rest key players and experiment in such a way whilst still claiming victory highlights the depth now present in South African cricket.

The only headache remaining for Proteas selectors is who to leave out for the upcoming home series against the apprehensive Australians. This is a headache that will induce stability rather than aspirin for Proteas management, finally having the depth to form multiple combinative options.

Let the quest to balance old heads and new blood begin.

South Africa – 288-6 in 50 overs
Hashim Amla 97, JP Duminy 60*, AB de Villiers 60, James Hopes 3-44.
Australia – 249 all out in 49 overs
Michael Hussey 78, Brad Haddin, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 4-50.
South Africa won by 39 runs.

For the full scorecard click here.

By Rory Keohane