It’s good to see South Africa back to winning ways. One of the most attractive sides in world cricket with the players being great crowd favorites it wasn’t a pleasant sight to see South Africa go down over and over again. Starting with their dismal showing in last year’s World Cup in England they haven’t fared well across formats. In Tests, they have been stumbling from one disaster to another. Since their victory over Australia at home in 2018, all they have to show on the profit side of the balance sheet is a victory over Pakistan at home. The biggest shock was going down to a none-too-strong Sri Lankan side despite playing in their own backyard. They also lost to India and Sri Lanka away and not too long ago went down in the Test series against England at home. Last month they were beaten by both England and Australia in T-20 contests. They have only middling status in all three formats in the ICC rankings and are currently languishing in the seventh spot in the World Test Championship table.
Given this background few would have given them any chance in the ODI series against Australia but displaying resilience they have already clinched the three-match contest with a game in hand. Right now they are a team in transition following the retirement of several stars the latest being Vernon Philander. They are also without Kagiso Rabada nursing a groin strain. But in winning the two matches against Australia in the ongoing series by 74 runs and six wickets South Africa have clearly picked themselves up from the ground and the immediate future looks full of promise.
What is most heartening is the manner in which the victories have been achieved against a strong Aussie side. In the first game, they recovered from 48 for three to post a challenging total of 291 for seven against a full-strength attack that included Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. Australia in reply were coasting along at 133 for two with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in command. Steadily however South Africa came back with Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi doing the damage and Australia were all out for 217. In the second game it was Australia’s turn to set a challenging target of 275 but South Africa despite losing Quinton de Kock for a second-ball duck at the top of the order got home with nine deliveries to spare.
Heinrich Klaasen in the middle order and opening batsman Janneman Malan came up with their maiden ODI hundreds in the two games but the pivotal role has been played by Ngidi. With nine wickets in the two matches including a career-best six for 58 in the second Ngidi who turns 24 later this month showed that he is ready to take over pace spearhead duties with Rabada once he returns. Dismissing Smith and Labuschagne with successive deliveries is the dream of every bowler and Ngidi achieved this feat in the second game. If de Kock is tipped to be the inspiration towards a South African resurgence as player and captain it could well be Ngidi who could play the same role as a bowler.