Can Proteas regain their winning form?
Notable changes made to strengthen squad
SOUTH Africa will try to forget Friday night and pick up where they left off in the United Arab Emirates when they face Pakistan in the first one-day international (ODI) at Newlands in Cape Town today.
In the Emirates, the Proteas were close to untouchable. They recovered to share the Test series 1-1 and played their best cricket when it mattered most to win the one-dayers 4-1. They also won both the T20s.
Signs that the purple patch was fading to mauve were seen at the Wanderers on Wednesday. South Africa needed help from Duckworth and Lewis to win the first T20 by four runs.
At Newlands on Friday, mauve became a moody blue and Pakistan earned victory in the second T20 by only six runs. But in truth, they were the better team on the night.
And so to today. The change of format should work to the Proteas’ advantage. There is no argument, they are a better team. But the shorter the game, the greater the chance that the Men in Green will win. Fifty overs is enough to separate the men from the boys.
AB de Villiers is back in the saddle as captain the day after he served as T20 captain Faf du Plessis’s best man. Du Plessis, who married Imari Visser in Cape Town yesterday, has been left out of the ODI mix.
Graeme Smith is back after sitting out the past couple of weeks with postconcussion syndrome.
But the biggest change to South Africa’s lineup is the return of Jacques Kallis to ODIs for the first time since last February. He missed the last 29 matches in the format, and the nation will want to know if the stalwart all-rounder still has what it takes to succeed.
Selection convenor Andrew Hudson said this week: “As well as Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell have done as emerging all-rounders, it is very welcome news to have Jacques back. There is no substitute for the experience he brings.”
Today ’ s match will mark the beginning of the Kallis bid to stay in the fitness and selection frame well enough to play in the 2015 World Cup.
The Proteas have never won the tournament, and the pressure is already on for what their public considers a golden generation of players to put the cherry on top of the cake.
The World Cup, which will be played in Australia and New Zealand, is still more than a year away.
But for South Africa, and especially for Kallis, it begins at Newlands today.