Returning Proteas ensure ODI series lead
South Africa will go into the second ODI against the West Indies in Johannesburg on holding the series lead, after their returning senior players emphatically demonstrated their value in Durban on Friday, winning by 61 runs.
The Proteas had recorded 279 for eight in 48.2 overs, thanks in very large part to their rested batsmen, as a flurry of wickets near the end prevented a more substantial score before rain ended the innings.
The visitors were chasing 229 in 33 rain-reduced overs, and aside from a Chris Gayle early blitz, were poor with the bat and handed their wickets away. They were all out for 164 in the 29th over, thanks to an all-round bowling effort.
Fortunately for the Proteas, the brief Gaylestorm did not result in devastation, as the West Indies opener was removed by Dale Steyn for 41, with the Windies on 51 in the sixth over. 'He has 33 overs, not 13!' raged commentator Michael Holding.
In the same vein, the main question a South Africa fan would have asked on the night, while twiddling their thumbs during the rain delay at Kingsmead, was what the Proteas would ever do without AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
The pair, the world's first and third-ranked ODI batsmen, had been rested in the T20 series and their absence was keenly felt then. Their presence was vital on Friday, as it will be today at the Wanderers. After losing two wickets for 16 runs, they were required to save the day once again.
What to do about Rilee Rossouw, sports fans? The opener was out for his fifth ODI duck in 10 matches, and this prompted Twitter to parody Kevin Pietersen's new torso tattoo. Instead of red star centuries on a world map, Rossouw would have yellow ducks.
Given he averages 14.50 since his debut in the format, and is in the World Cup squad, it's fair to say that fans will be desperate for Quinton de Kock to be fit as soon as possible and rejoin Amla at the top.
Once Faf du Plessis, who must consider himself an opener these days given how soon he comes in, was also removed for a duck, Amla and AB proceeded to do that thing they do so well: Put on a big partnership.
They added 99 runs in the next 15 overs, with Amla's half ton coming off 49 balls. The Bearded One was run out for 66, leaving De Villiers, who made 81, to bat on with David Miller, who also had a lot to prove.
He once again showed, as he had in the third T20, that when he's given time at the crease, he's capable of big runs. He's not the 'death over slogger' he's been boxed in as, and is statistically better the sooner he bats.
Miller and his skipper batted together for 20 overs and put 123 more runs on the board. Miller was the more dominant partner, making 70 of those runs, before being removed by Jason Holder, who was making his debut as Windies ODI skipper. Miller had hit the only two sixes of the home innings.
The hosts then proceeded to lose five wickets for 34 runs as the wind began to pump. Andre Russell added the run out of Farhaan Behardien, again disappointingly out cheaply, to his early removal Amla, while also bagging JP Duminy and Vernon Philander. Suddenly 300-plus was a distant dream, and the covers came on.
As for the Windies' chase, it soon became the clear that if Gayle doesn't do it, it's not going to get done. This will be very worrying for the visitors, given they haven't won a game on this tour when he wasn't in the side.
Once he departed in the sixth over, the rest of the top order struggled to cope with Steyn, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir in the wind, once again emphasising how reliant the Proteas are on their senior players.
Tahir was particularly impressive, as he tends to be in the shorter formats (just to annoy his critics), and used the strong wind to good effect, bagging three wickets. Whether he'll be helped as much in Joburg will be another story.
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