TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
DALE Steyn was in attendance at South Africa’s net practice at Newlands on Monday ahead of the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka there on Tuesday.
But the fast bowler – who didn’t train as he still recovering from the shoulder he fractured in November – wasn’t the star of the show.
Neither were any of the players who, at the Wanderers on Saturday, wrapped up South Africa’s seventh series win in their last nine bilateral rubbers regardless of format.
Instead, the spotlight was firmly on a black-and-white pom-pom of perfection called Chobe – Steyn’s ridiculously cute seven-week-old border collie puppy.
Even the busily toddling sons of AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel – baby AB and Ari – couldn’t quite match that in the attention stakes.
The same went for the fact that, if South Africa win the last two games of the series to complete a 5-0 whitewash, they will usurp Australia atop the ODI rankings.
“It’s always a nice thing to be ranked No.1 and it’s an added bonus for us but for now it’s about making sure we focus on what’s important for us and that is the preparation leading up to the Champions Trophy,” JP Duminy said, searching for a nugget of relevance amid the rubble of a one-sided rubber.
“If we get to No.1 that’s an added bonus.”
Claiming another 5-0 triumph to add to the thumping South Africa handed to Australia in an ODI series in October seemed more important.
“The end result is definitely about 5-0,” Duminy said.
“For us, it’s to take it game by game so (Tuesday) is the most important game for us, to try and win the game.
“But we’ve always had one eye on 5-0.”
So thoughts had yet to turn to South Africa’s imminent tour to New Zealand?
“We are focusing on now and to beat Sri Lanka,” Duminy said.
“It’s a quick turnaround – we leave on Saturday for New Zealand and four days later we play a T20.
“We are going to have to have our ducks in a row.”
Rather not – unless Duminy was referring to trying to make sure the Lankan batsmen string together a few ducks.
That has already happened too often for the visitors’ liking: all three of the ducks registered among the 23 players who have batted in the series belong to Sri Lankans, who have lost seven of the nine international matches they have played on tour.
But duminy wasn’t about to gloat: “We’ve definitely been on the other side of the coin.
“A year back we were being criticised for the type of style of cricket we were playing.
“It’s good to be able to turn it around now and capitalise on some good form as a team.”
Part of the reason that is happening is the confidence the selectors and team management have shown in new players.
Dwaine Pretorius, for instance, replaced Wayne Parnell at the Wanderers and took 3/19 – his best figures in his four ODIs.
“We are a squad of players and whoever gets an opportunity, that’s an honour in itself,” Duminy said. “That’s what we are about.
“The guys that get the opportunity must be able to put in performances, and they have done that.”
A different kind of opportunity will present itself at Newlands on Tuesday, when the game will be dedicated to the hardworking firefighters who have kept the Cape’s mountains and fynbos relatively safe from this summer’s bush blazes.
“They have put in some amazing hours representing the Western Cape so we just want to honour them and the work they do,” Duminy said.
All together now: Protea Fire!