While AB de Villiers’ team may have conceded big totals in all three one-day internationals against England, but Kyle Abbott believes that his team have the ability to restrict them and square the series in the fourth ODI at the Bullring on Friday.
After missing the 399/9 mauling at the hands of the English in Bloemfontein due to his niggling hamstring strain, seam bowler Abbott returned with relative aplomb in Port Elizabeth and Centurion to top the series bowling averages and be joint-first on the wicket-takers’ list on five.
And although England chased down 262 for victory in Port Elizabeth and then scoring 318/8 in a losing cause at SuperSport Park, Abbott believes that the South African attack have been improving in every game, which sets them up well for the must-win day-night clash in Johannesburg on Friday (1.30pm start).
Joe Root scored a marvellous 125 in Centurion - although he was dropped on 44 in a difficult dipping chance to Quinton de Kock off David Wiese - and he was supported by opener Alex Hales’ 65 and a 37-ball 53 from hard-hitting all-rounder Ben Stokes.
Already without the injured Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, the Proteas have had to get around the patchy displays from usual ODI strike bowler Imran Tahir as well.
But Abbott has brought a sense of control to the South African line-up in being one of only four bowlers to have a run-rate of below six - along with Kagiso Rabada, Morné Morkel and Adil Rashid.
And although the Wanderers boasts the best ODI batting pitch in the country, Abbott feels positive about the Proteas’ chances of levelling the series at 2-2 on Friday and stopping English stroke-players Root, Hales, Jos Buttler and Stokes.
“I thought we played a pretty good game of cricket on Tuesday night. We assessed the conditions quite early with the ball. Although they got 300, we always felt that they never got away from us. They sort of went at five, six to the over throughout the whole innings, and there were never really massive spikes,” Abbott said at a press conference at the Wanderers on Thursday.
“AB is fantastic at picking up the rhythm of the batsmen, and the areas they are looking to target. We’ve got our plans and done our research on them, so we’re pretty confident in executing our skills to keep them quiet.
“If we can limit boundary balls - although that’s not always the case, because we know that a shot that’s not well-timed can go for four or six here. So it’s quite challenging, and the key for us is to compete in every over, keep it to 10 instead of 15 runs for example if we concede an early boundary.”
The Proteas - who will be clad in their pink kit once again in aid of raising funds for breast cancer awareness - have been victorious in 21 out of 28 ODIs at the Wanderers, with the last one featuring De Villiers’ world record ton against the West Indies last season, where he smashed a hundred off 31 balls and went on to score 149 off 44, with nine fours and 16 sixes in an exhilarating display.
There is no doubt that the skipper can come close to repeating the feat, although he hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks.
But if the Proteas are to stand any chance of delaying the series outcome to the final ODI at Newlands on Sunday (10am), then they need the bowlers to stop a juggernaut English batting line-up.
Abbott said they would have to contend with a short boundary to the one side on Friday, but at least he is totally over his hamstring complaint. “I must admit, coming back from injury in PE, I wasn’t… Although I’d been given the all-clear from the medical staff, there was still an element of risk in that first game coming back. Just the confidence. I felt a lot better on Tuesday night than I did on Saturday, I must admit,” the 28-year-old said.
“I haven’t tweaked anything, just been working hard with physiotherapist Brandon Jackson to strengthen the area affected.
“We’ve got a good record here, not only in pink but in all ODIs. We will be looking to start from scratch again tomorrow and build those bases to what got us to those big totals, and winning those games. It’s all a process, it doesn’t happen in one or two overs, but 50.
“The guys are looking forward to doing that, and hopefully we can keep up our record and put some pressure on for the series, which I think is building - more on them than on us at the moment.”
* Follow @IndyCapeSport on Twitter on Friday for live updates of the fourth ODI, which starts at 1.30pm.
Independent MediaNow that the batting problems have been resolved, it’s time for the Proteas bowling attack to come to the party, writes Ashfak Mohamed.
Original source: More pressure on England than SA - Abbott