Energy too great an expectation for SA-NZ series

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

A winning captain isn’t supposed to say things like, “Maybe our skills were pretty good but our energy was lacking.”

But AB de Villiers said exactly that – and more – in Centurion on Wednesday after SA beat New Zealand by 20 runs in the first one-day international.

“I was a little but disappointed with our energy in the field as a unit. That probably comes with time. I don’t know exactly what went wrong but I just didn’t feel that energy that I normally feel.”

That’s three uses of the word “energy” in three sentences. Can we assume that SA will play with three times more energy in the second match of the series in Potchefstroom on Sunday?

If they do, they will wrap up the rubber and perhaps the skipper will be a happier camper at the post-match press conference.

Not that De Villiers didn’t have a point. Perhaps because the series has been stripped of most of its intrigue by the absence of several key players through injuries, rotation and paternity leave, perhaps because chucking a tour of T20s and ODIs at cricket supporters for no good reason in winter was never a good idea, New Zealand’s visit is passing like a ship in the night for players and public alike. Make that a submarine in the night.

Despite all indications to the contrary, cricketers are as human as the rest of us. If we can’t take much of an interest in the three matches the Kiwis have played in SA so far – be honest, do you remember who did what in the first T20? – perhaps the players themselves are struggling to find meaning in what they will be doing until the third and mercifully last ODI in Durban on Wednesday.

But first they have to go through the motions on Sunday on a Potch pitch that, word was this week, could be even slower than surfaces there usually are.

“I have absolutely no idea what Potch is going to be like,” De Villiers said. “It’s normally a good batting wicket. I have seen sides bowled out for next to nothing there but not often.”

Only once in their four ODI series in SA have New Zealand come out on top. That was in their most recent rubber here, in January 2013.

SA won the Potchefstroom match of that series; off the last ball by one wicket, no less. But, by then, the visitors had prevailed in Paarl and Kimberley. And here we are, back in Potch but with the series still alive.

Expect New Zealand to fight back to try and level matters – even depleted they remain a proud and resourceful team. Expect SA to build on their performance in Centurion, where Hashim Amla returned to form with a timely hundred and Vernon Philander took two important wickets to remind people how effective he can be in this format when he is not running in on one hamstring.

Expect plenty of runs scored with help from an outfield made grumpily bumpy from being awoken from its hibernation. Expect, too, a full house of vociferous supporters crammed into one of the most welcoming grounds in the country.

But energy? That would be too great an expectation.

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