How to win one-day internationals in England? Bat like Lance Klusener‚ bowl like Shaun Pollock.
If SA want to succeed — as in win — the 2019 Cricket World Cup‚ that’s the script history has written for them.
Klusener’s outrageous assault on the game’s best bowlers at the 1999 edition of the tournament‚ which was also played in England‚ has earned him the highest average by any player in ODIs in that country: 96.00.
He also owns the third-highest strike rate there‚ 114.97 — the best among all non-England players and the best among all retired players.
Pollock’s economy rate in ODIs in England‚ 3.72‚ is ninth on the all-time list and the lowest by a South African.
That you have to go 36 names down the list before you find a current ODI player — Moeen Ali‚ who goes for 5.33 runs an over at home — tells us how much bowling in this format has changed since Pollock played his last game in England‚ at the Oval in September 2004.
Here’s another way to measure that change: an average of 356.7 runs were scored per match at the 1999 World Cup‚ a figure that by the 2015 tournament had leapt to 464.4.
But there can be little doubt that a bowler of Pollock’s intelligence and skill would be at or near the top of any set of rankings from any era.
The subtlety and nous he harnessed‚ with neither express pace nor sniping swing or seam‚ to keep even the most destructive batsmen quiet would serve any bowler well.
Pollock took just nine wickets at the 1999 World Cup but only five bowlers had a better economy rate‚ and two of them were Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
The closest Pollock got to conceding a run-a-ball in his eight games in that competition was when he went for 4.7 to the over against India at Hove.
There was less subtlety about the way Klusener went about things.
Few have‚ do or will ever hammer a cricket ball with the kind of confidence and disdain he brought to the crease.
If you went to watch him in the nets‚ particularly indoors‚ you took earplugs — Klusener practising six-hitting was wonderful to see but properly painful to hear.
“It’s pleasing to see the wealth of bowling talent in the wings‚ and I’m pleased that I have finished off well and on my own terms with regard to performance‚” Pollock said in January 2008 when he announced his imminent retirement.
Happily for South Africa and their supporters‚ that has not changed.
Despite dwindling faith in domestic cricket’s suitability for producing players able to do what those like Klusener and Pollock did‚ and the complications caused by Kolpak contracts and administrators who don’t always inspire the confidence that they know what they’re doing‚ cricket in this country has continued to produce quality talent.
It’s going to be up to a new generation to do something not even Klusener nor Pollock managed in their otherwise illustrious careers — win the damn World Cup.