David Miller’s career-defining innings in the third ODI against Australia underlines that he can prove a match-winner for South Africa.
South Africa’s first ODI series triumph against Australia away from home since the 2008/09 tour is a fantastic achievement. I felt the 2-1 win for the visitors was a fair reflection of the series and the Proteas richly deserved to take the spoils, as they played the better cricket over the three matches.
With the series tied at 1-1, South Africa withstood the pressure to win the deciding ODI in Hobart. While South Africa had a jittery start – at one stage they were 55-3 – captain Faf du Plessis played such a good innings. He was composed and controlled and it was the best century I have seen from him, especially under the pressure he came in under. Du Plessis was ably supported by David Miller, who I have been a great supporter of since he was a young boy. I know the Miller family well and I have seen David grow up in front of me. I have long maintained that no other batsman since Herschelle Gibbs has timed the ball better. Miller has unbelievable potential to become our match-winner. What I have always asked myself is, at what point will Miller move to a space where he becomes the finisher? When he is in the zone where he finishes matches for South Africa, I believe we will win many more matches. I always want David to take his innings deeper and, having got out for 51 in the second ODI, he certainly did that by scoring 139 in the third ODI. It was a landmark innings under pressure and career-defining one which I feel many will remember for years to come.
By and large, the Proteas top three batsmen flattered to deceive during the series, which is a point of concern. Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram contributed a combined tally of 127 runs in the first ODI but failed to fill their boots in the second and third ODIs. South Africa’s openers, in particular, would feel as though they didn’t have very successful tours. However, I would still go with De Kock and his role will be easier to define when you have got a Hashim Amla on the other side, as opposed to a young guy. You can play with more freedom when there is someone who is more established on the opposite end of the crease. In terms of Markram, who I know is getting out in funny ways, at some point he has to start converting starts into big scores and bat deeper. Good 30s aren’t going to win you ODIs. If the Proteas are going to play Markram at No.3, he really has to step up to the plate. Owing to his talent, he has to start making a bigger impression as a batter. I have no doubt he can because there’s no question of his potential. However, I wonder if he is still coming to grips with his role as a player in the 50-over format and how to construct an ODI innings. At international level, he has got to understand that it is a process that he has to go through.
South Africa conclude their tour with a one-off T20 international against Australia on the Gold Coast on Saturday. They probably could have got in another two ODIs instead but T20 is a money-spinner and it brings people to the ground. You can clearly see the Australian cricket public is at odds with their game owing to the disappointing crowd numbers during the ODI series. Attendance at the stadiums hasn’t been as good as it should have been but that is Cricket Australia’s issue to deal with. By all accounts, the T20I will be closely contested but I will never read too much into the outcome.
(Article written for SA Cricket Magazine)