There was little evidence of neighbourly niceness during South Africa’s whitewashing of Zimbabwe in the three-ODI series but that does not mean all love was lost between the two sides. The next time South Africa think seriously about this Zimbabwean outfit will be on Valentine’s Day 2015 – the eve of their opening World Cup game.
It is no accident that South Africa will begin mission ‘Win the World Cup,’ for the seventh time, against the same team they beat 3-0 when they began their build-up. South Africa have planned to play the teams they will face in the tournament, with West Indies up soon, and to play in the host countries, with visits to New Zealand and Australia in the next three months. That’s how they roll. Clinically. And so when they hark back to this Zimbabwe series, they will remember it gave them both that winning feeling and the knowledge that their cupboard is full.
“We covered our bases pretty well,” Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s stand-in captain for the third ODI, said. “The bowlers were solid throughout the series and there were no blow-ups with the batters. It’s nice from a confidence point of view that we’ve dominated Zimbabwe.”
For du Plessis, the series was confirmation that he is a one-day player because there was a time when that was in doubt. Du Plessis had been dropped from the squad ahead of last year’s series against India, following a run of middling scores and a moderate average, but was brought back for the Sri Lanka series in July, although he did not play.
He got a second chance when he was asked to step into Jacques Kallis’ shoes for this rubber and it proved the perfect place for him. Du Plessis acted as the stonewaller when the innings needed steadying and brought out his more expressive side in the third game, when there was a small total to get and the series was already won. “When you’re chasing you want to put the pressure back on the opposition,” du Plessis said, when discussing his approach in the final fixture.
“I assessed the wicket and I felt it was a much better one to bat on, so I felt I could play a little more freely. It was nice to play like that. We both put the pressure on the bowlers and the runs kept flowing.”
The second person in the ‘we’ that du Plessis mentioned was South Africa’s find of the series, if someone who has already been discovered twice before can still be described as such. Quinton de Kock’s three centuries in three matches against India was his breakthrough, his century in the ODI series in Sri Lanka was a show of his progress in subcontinent conditions, and his twin fifties in this series was evidence of his maturity.