Keshav Maharaj didn’t say so explicitly, but the Proteas need to shed a nasty habit they’ve developed over the domestic summer.
South Africa go into Wednesday’s second ODI against Australia in Bloemfontein with a golden opportunity to claim an early series win.
The irony is that Mark Boucher’s charges have been in this position three times previously over the past month or so against the Aussies and England, winning a tad unexpectedly and then seemingly suffering from stage fright when they’re considered favourites.
It’s little wonder then Maharaj, whose white-ball form in domestic cricket saw him received a recall in the 50-over format, believes the Proteas should move on from an encouraging 74-run win in Paarl at the weekend.
“The first game is gone. It was an exceptional effort from the team all round. We batted well and also bowled exceptionally. It’s now really about merely building on the positives from the game and where we can improve,” he said yesterday.
“This is a new game and a new start. I think that’s the mind shift we’ve made. We’re now approaching every game like it’s the first of the series. Hopefully that helps us win series, instead of perhaps falling back at the back end.”
South Africa will also need to be wary of opposition who’ll be resurgent and hurting from an off-colour performance in the Western Cape.
In fact, Maharaj isn’t sure if the Aussies were all that bad.
“I don’t think the Australians were complacent at all. The way they started with the ball in Paarl showed that they weren’t taking anything for granted,” he said.
“They have a world-class batting line-up that was merely disrupted by Lungi Ngidi’s opening spell. That made life easier for us later on.”
One man who indeed profited from that the lanly quick’s fine burst was Maharaj, who did a good job opening the bowling.
Given Bloemfontein’s pitch’s reputation for being on the slower side in the latter part of the domestic season, the left-armer might reprise a similar role.
He even received praise from Aussie talisman Steve Smith, who singled out his control.
“I haven’t looked at the wicket here yet, but Paarl was a bit sub-continent in its nature, a bit skiddy. To get praise from someone of his calibre obviously puts a spring in my step. But I’m not taking it for granted. You always need to be on top of your game against a side like this.”
Same goes for the team.