SA aim for ‘new level’ – and 5-0

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

NOT since 2010 have SA won all five matches in a bilateral short format series, and not since 2005 in a one-day rubber.

Both times the victims of those hidings have been West Indies, who are also the only team SA have beaten 5-0 in a test series – in SA in 1998-99.

Incredibly, the mighty Australians are in danger of becoming the only other entry on this index of ignominy.

That will happen should SA win the fifth ODI at Newlands on Wednesday.

But does it matter much to a team who won the series last Wednesday?

“It’s important and it’s definitely what we as a team are trying to do,” SA captain Faf du Plessis said on Tuesday.

“Four-nil is already unbelievable, and if that was the end of the series I’d be very happy. But 5-0 has never been done against Australia.

“So it’s something that we as team really want to do. We want to go places where no other SA team have been.

“We want to reach higher levels and achieve greater things than anyone else.”

And that’s a SA team stripped of the injured AB de Villiers, in which Hashim Amla has missed half the series, and with Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada off the boil.

What, beyond Quinton de Kock, Du Plessis and David Miller scoring centuries in the first three games and Kyle Abbott taking four wickets in the fourth, has made SA so much better than their opponents?

Du Plessis’ leadership, perhaps?

“No, it’s not my captaincy,” he said. “It’s just a general belief in the squad.

“The direction of the team is on a different path.

“The individuals certainly don’t think it’s an individual game anymore. If at any stage they do think that they will get challenged and quickly realise that it’s not.

“That’s why the team is doing so well.

“The guys are extremely hungry to perform and that makes it easy to captain.

“It’s important for me to keep driving that, and that’s something I try and live every day in this team – to try and make sure that I do challenge guys every single day to try and get better and to try and put in performances for this team that will make us a really, really good team.

“We’ve been OK as a team in different parts of the past two years and we don’t want to be that kind of team.

“It’s important for the leaders in the team and the coaching staff to make sure that we keep driving it, because it’s something we could very easily lose again.”

The theory that SA are dominant because the Aussies brought inexperienced bowlers on tour cut no ice with Du Plessis.

“There’s a lot been said about their attack but my focus is on how we’ve been batting,” he said. “It’s been a level above what we’ve seen in the past.

“Their batting is just as strong, and possibly on paper sometimes even stronger, but they haven’t matched our batsmen in this series at all.

“We haven’t allowed them to compete with us at times, and even when they looked like they were going to compete we held them and stuck it out and waited for the opportunity.

“It’s happening more regularly now in this team that guys are doing amazing things, and that’s great for me to see as a captain.

“The style of cricket we have played in this series has been on a new level and hopefully that’s something we can drive forward going into this test series.”

Ah, that – the three tests SA will be play in Australia next month.

But isn’t Du Plessis comparing apples and pears?

“I appreciate that it’s a different format but if you play against Australia every single mental thing you can have on your side does play a role,’ he said.

“So that’s a big driving factor for me for tomorrow – to try and make sure we win 5-0, because that’s huge confidence.

“We know it’s going to be an extremely tough tour. Beating them in Australia is possibly up there with the toughest tours, test-wise. A 5-0 scoreline would be another 1% in our favour.”

Soaking rain on Monday night provided a decent test of Newlands’ new drainage system, which cost about R460 000 and was installed between August 20 and September 18.

The outfield felt firm enough underfoot on Tuesday despite the rain, although linear scars the length of the ground will detract from the grand old ground’s graciousness.

But they will heal long before the scars that a 5-0 klap would leave on the Aussies.

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