Winning smile: AB de Villiers enjoys the victory in New Zealand. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ANTHONY AU-YEUNG
Winning smile: AB de Villiers enjoys the victory in New Zealand. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ANTHONY AU-YEUNG

The SA one day international (ODI) side finds itself in a positive space ahead of the all-important Champions Trophy in June. Indeed, the record of 14 wins in 16 matches is a statement in itself.

The Proteas smashed Australia 5-0 in a series played in SA in 2016 and handed Sri Lanka a 5-0 drubbing in the new year. The win in the first ODI in Hamilton, New Zealand, allowed them to equal the SA record for the most consecutive victories (12).

In Auckland this past Saturday, the Proteas held their nerve to beat New Zealand by a convincing six-wicket margin in what was an absorbing series decider.

Much was made of the fact that the same two teams competed on the same ground in the World Cup semifinal two years ago. New Zealand won that match by four wickets. Some felt that the Proteas — with Saturday’s victory — had exorcised their demons. When the pressure was on and everything was at stake, the team responded with a quality performance.

Yet the Proteas will be all too aware that they haven’t won a major title since the International Cricket Council (ICC) Knockout Trophy tournament in 1998. They will have everything to prove when they travel to the Champions Trophy in England in June.

Several facets of play require sharpening in the lead-up to a tournament in which they will have a chance to lay the aforementioned ghosts to rest.

As many as four of the Proteas’ top six batsmen — AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, and Faf du Plessis — are ranked among the ICC’s top 10 batsmen.

De Villiers showed why he is the best of the lot in the ODI series in New Zealand. The Proteas skipper made a habit of rotating the strike during the middle overs and launching an all-out assault at the death. He appears to be in a good space mentally and physically, which bodes well for the team.

The form of Amla and JP Duminy will be of concern, as will the absence of a death-bowling alternative to Kagiso Rabada. While Rabada and Imran Tahir impressed across the five games in New Zealand, the bowlers as a unit failed to convince.

The Proteas will have the opportunity to explore other options and settle on their best combination in the three ODIs against England in May, a series that will serve as a warm-up for the Champions Trophy.

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