Having won the first match at Chester-le-Street, South Africa are one win away from clinching their first 50-over series triumph in England since 1998 as they go into the second ODI at Old Trafford on Friday, but being on the verge of claiming a trophy can bring challenges of its own.
In the five-match T20 series in India last month, the Proteas pulled off two impressive wins chasing in Delhi and Cuttack, but then lost the next two matches as conditions became more typically subcontinental. The decider in Bengaluru was washed out.
In their previous ODI series, they lost the deciding match against Bangladesh in Centurion for a shock series defeat.
But before that, their previous bilateral series in both formats saw them whitewash India 3-0 in home ODIs in January and Sri Lanka 3-0 in T20s in Colombo last September.
“In India we said the third game was our final,” fast bowler Anrich Nortje said on Thursday.
“But we didn’t get it done, so the next game too was a final and the same thing happened. We didn’t pull it through.
“We’ve definitely taken some learnings from that. We can’t read too much into the past and we need to assess conditions as quickly as possible.
“We must do what we do well and not worry about England’s strategy, even though they have very good batsmen.”
South Africa used the big field at the Riverside Ground, and a baking pitch that became more difficult to bat on, to their advantage in the first ODI.
Old Trafford, one of England’s grand old venues, also has a large outfield.
That will mean the Proteas spinners – Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram – will again be key players and England will want to shake off the impression that they played them a bit like Geoff Boycott’s grandmother with her proverbial stick of rhubarb.
All-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo has been ruled out of the series due to his concussion and is likely to be replaced by Dwaine Pretorius, but fast men Nortje and Lungi Ngidi gave the spinners great backing earlier this week.
Of the last 10 ODIs at Old Trafford, eight have been won by the team batting first.
“Hopefully we win the toss, if that’s the case,” Nortje laughed.
“Our spinners have really been crucial for us, they’ve done a great job in the middle overs and Kesh at the start too. It’s nothing fancy in terms of our attack, we all just contribute our little bits.
“We’ve got to adapt, and if there’s a bit in the pitch then you can be boring as a bowler, just try hit the top of off-stump.
“But if it’s flat and the batsmen are attacking, then you’re trying bouncers, yorkers, slower balls. We hear conditions will be better than the last venue, with more bounce and a bit more in it for batting and bowling.”
The game starts at 2pm SA time.