Photo Credit: Central Districts Cricket Association
Proteas limited-over coach Rob Walter was optimistic about the future of South African cricket after they formally concluded their 2022/23 season with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the Betway One-Day International Series that concluded in Johannesburg on Sunday.
The result capped a strong home summer for the hosts, who also beat England 2-1 in their 50-over series and then drew 1-1 with West Indies, who they lost a thrilling T20 international series 2-1 to but beat the islanders 2-0 in their Test series.
All this after an underwhelming first half of the term, which included a disappointing ICC Men’s T20 World Cup exit. Since then, Walter has taken over as coach of the white ball team and Shukri Conrad placed in charge of the red-ball side.
The outcome against the Dutch also moved the Proteas ahead of West Indies in the race for ICC World Cup qualification where only one team can now catch them on the ICC World Cup Super League table. That team is Ireland who will have to whitewash Bangladesh next month.
“It’s always good to get a series win, so the spirits are high,” Walter said afterwards. “Most importantly were the 20 points in the context of qualifying for the World Cup was hugely important, so we’re happy we got the job done there.
“We played a portion of the second game really well, but we were off the mark in certain other areas so there’s work to do still. But we’ll take the win for now.”
There was plenty of concern over the Proteas at the turn of the year, but Walters believes there is nothing to fear.
“I’ve kept a close eye on South African cricket over the last few years, so I’m very aware of the people that are playing but the one thing that has really run through over the last couple of weeks is the actual resources and potential of the side, which is really significant,” he explained. “It’s just about harnessing that properly as we move forward.”
The Proteas coach was also full of praise for Aiden Markram, who has enjoyed a stellar home summer, which included leading Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the inaugural SA20 title, followed by Player of the Series displays in the Tests against West Indies and the ODIs against the Dutch.
“I think he’s been doing It for a couple of weeks now to be honest,” Walter added. “His knock at Willowmoore (Park in the second ODI) was also outstanding, if you think of the first shot he played when guys were struggling all day.
“He stood up tall, played it on the up and hit it for four, so his cricket is orthodox, but the purity of his timing has been amazing and his decision-making has been great.”
Markram himself was also pleased with the way things had turned around for him in the last few months. The 28-year-old, named South Africa’s new T20I captain last month, recorded a career best in Sunday’s win where he smashed 175 (126 balls, 17 fours, 7 sixes) in what was his 50th match for his country. His score was also the joint-sixth highest by an SA player in ODIs out of a total of 370 for eight.
“I’ve enjoyed the last part of the season quite a bit,” he said. “I think we have a great team in both red-ball and white-ball formats. There’s a great bunch of guys that we have together. There’s no doubt that we’re slowly but surely getting there and showing some good signs as a team.
“We’re on this new journey that everyone is speaking about and the brand of cricket that the guys want to play, it’s starting to take some shape, which is exciting to be a part of and exciting to see it from the outside as well. All of that added together has made the journey so far a great joy to be part of.”
Another man that has enjoyed an excellent summer has been Sisanda Magala. The seamer, whose performances have also won him a contract in the Indian Premier League (IPL), claimed a career-best five for 43 as the Dutch were bowled out for 224.
“I think with Sisi he’s a very basic guy and if he’s got backing then he’s going to break his back for you,” Markram added. “That’s sort of the way he approaches things. I think he’s felt that backing through the last few performances, naturally a player feels it that now they belong at this level, they can compete and they can win games at this level which he has shown now quite a few times.
“It’s great for him to have these achievements that he’s getting especially through the bit of history he’s had in this environment. The guys love him, he’s great value in the changeroom and when he does well everyone in in the team is over the moon for him.”