Picture: ISTOCK

Picture: ISTOCK

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The quality of the Proteas’ performances in the ODI series against Australia would have fuelled the belief that this season could be very different to the last. SA dominated the tourists in terms of results, winning the first three games of the five-match rubber to take an unassailable lead in the series. (And they went on to make it 4-0 on Sunday.)

The sparkling individual performances by the more established players, as well as several of the newcomers, would have pleased coach Russell Domingo as the team gears up for a test series in Australia next month, and then a full home series against Sri Lanka. That the Proteas were able to fire on the batting front despite the absence of AB de Villiers — and Hashim Amla in the opening match — speaks volumes for their depth and perhaps what we can expect in the future.

Quinton de Kock’s innings in the first ODI at Centurion set the tone for the rest of the series. The Proteas were set a target of 295 in that match, and there may have been doubts about their ability to chase it down given the absence of De Villiers and Amla. De Kock, however, took it upon himself to win the match by playing the only way he knows how. The left-handed batsman took full advantage of an inexperienced Australian bowling attack to smash 178 off just 113 balls. It was thanks to this explosive knock that the Proteas surpassed Australia’s total with more than 13 overs to spare.

The rest of the team drew inspiration from that innings. In the second ODI, in Jo’burg, captain Faf du Plessis scored 111 as the Proteas posted an intimidating and ultimately winning total of 361.

De Kock sparked a Proteas’ blaze in the third match (in Durban) when he hit 70 off 49 deliveries. And yet, it took more than one superlative performance for SA to eclipse Australia’s mammoth total of 371 and complete the second-highest run chase in ODI history.

David Miller came in at No 6 and proceeded to play one of the greatest limited-overs innings of the modern era, thrashing the hapless Aussie bowlers to all parts of the ground. In the end, Miller’s unbeaten 118 off 79 balls was instrumental in the Proteas winning with four balls to spare.

The 20-year-old rookie Andile Phehlukwayo made his mark for the Proteas in the first ODI when he took four wickets. However, by the end of the third match, many were celebrating Phehlukwayo’s impact as an all-rounder and waxing lyrical about his future. Phehlukwayo hit 42 off 39 in that match in Durban, and his partnership with Miller effectively won the game for SA.

The Proteas will change gear now as they prepare for the three-test series in Australia. De Villiers has been ruled out of the first two matches and is unlikely to be fit for the third (a day-night test in Adelaide). The Proteas may find it difficult to cope. It’s hard enough to tour Australia with a full-strength squad. SA will face that challenge without their skipper and best player.

And yet, they would have taken heart from their performances in the ODIs against the Aussies. They will travel Down Under in November with some confidence and momentum, and this may aid them in their quest to claim a third successive test series win in Australia.