Dale Steyn was in attendance at SA’s net practice at Newlands on Monday ahead of the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
But the fast bowler – who did not train as he was still recovering from the shoulder he fractured in November – was not the star of the show. Neither were any of the players who‚ at the Wanderers on Saturday‚ wrapped up SA’s seventh series win in all formats in their last nine bilateral rubbers.
Instead‚ the spotlight was firmly on a black-and-white pom-pom of perfection called Chobe – Steyn’s ridiculously cute seven-week-old border collie puppy. Even the busily toddling sons of AB de Villiers and Morné Morkel – baby AB and Ari – could not quite match that in the attention stakes.
The same went for the fact that‚ if SA win the last two games of the series to complete a 5-0 whitewash‚ they will usurp Australia atop the ODI rankings.
"It’s always a nice thing to be ranked No1 and it’s an added bonus for us, but for now it’s about making sure we focus on what’s important for us and that is the preparation leading up to the Champions Trophy‚" JP Duminy said‚ searching for a nugget of relevance amid the rubble of a one-sided rubber.
Claiming another 5-0 triumph to add to the thumping SA handed to Australia in an
ODI series in October seemed more important.
"The end result is definitely about 5-0‚" Duminy said. "For us‚ it’s to take it game by game so [Tuesday] is the most important game for us‚ to try and win.
"But we’ve always had one eye on 5-0."
So thoughts had yet to turn to SA’s imminent tour to New Zealand?
"We are focusing on now and to beat Sri Lanka‚" Duminy said.
"It’s a quick turnaround — we leave on Saturday for New Zealand and four days later we play a T20.
"We are going to have to have our ducks in a row."
Rather not – unless Duminy was referring to trying to make sure the Lankan batsmen string together a few ducks.
That has already happened too often for the visitors’ liking: all three of the ducks registered among the 23 players who have batted in the series belong to Sri Lankans‚ who have lost seven of the nine international matches they have played on tour.
But Duminy was not about to gloat: "We’ve definitely been on the other side of the coin. A year back we were being criticised for the type of cricket we were playing. It’s good to turn it around now and capitalise on some good form as a team."
One reason for this happening is the confidence the selectors and team management have shown in new players. Dwaine Pretorius‚ for instance‚ replaced Wayne Parnell at the Wanderers and took 3/19 – his best figures in his four ODIs.
"We are a squad of players and whoever gets an opportunity‚ that’s an honour in itself‚" Duminy said. "That’s what we are about. The guys who get the opportunity must be able to put in performances and they have done that."
A different kind of opportunity will present itself at Newlands when the game will be dedicated to the hardworking firefighters who have kept the Cape’s mountains and fynbos relatively safe from this summer’s bush blazes.