Cape Town – It is very much a case of ‘job done’ for the Proteas ODI squad in Sri Lanka.
Sunday’s 78-run win in Kandy means that the visitors have wrapped up the series, leading 3-0 with two matches to play.
It’s been a commanding display from coach Ottis Gibson’s men after they were completely outplayed in two disastrous Test matches.
And, with the 2019 World Cup now comfortably less than a year away, it is the shorter format that must be prioritised between now and then.
Sri Lankan ODI cricket is at its lowest point in some time – they are ranked 8th in the world, behind Bangladesh – but there have still been some encouraging performances from a number of Proteas.
JP Duminy stands out immediately and it is looking more and more like his retirement from Test cricket has benefited his limited overs game. Duminy is playing with positivity and purpose, and he is comfortably the series’ leading run scorer after three matches with 177 runs at 88.50.
Hashim Amla’s return to something resembling form is also good news for the national cause, while David Miller got going on Sunday with a knock of 51 in the 3rd ODI.
With the ball, the wicket-taking ability of Lungi Ngidi (8), Andile Phehlukwayo (6) and Tabraiz Shamsi (6) has been most pleasing, even if Phehlukwayo has been too expensive over the course of the series.
Young Wian Mulder has also looked the part without blowing anyone away.
Reeza Hendricks, meanwhile, arrived with a bang on Sunday with a century on debut to put himself firmly in the World Cup conversation.
There are numerous reasons for Gibson and the rest of the Proteas management to feel satisfied by what they have seen over the past three fixtures, but with two matches left, the time has come to give those on the fringes a run.
The most logical change is to rest Kagiso Rabada for the rest of the tour.
With the series won, there is no point playing the 23-year-old again. He has bowled 54 overs in the Test series and 25 in the ODI series.
Rabada will be the first name on the team sheet at the World Cup and his powers are known to all. There is, simply, nothing that can be gained from playing him in the final two ODIs.
Instead, Junior Dala must come in and get two valuable caps under the belt. The 28-year-old is rated highly by Gibson and this is the ideal opportunity for him to earn an ODI debut after impressing in three T20Is to date.
With Ngidi still finding his feet on the international stage, it makes sense for him to keep bowling as much as possible.
In the spin department, Gibson and the selectors must decide if there is more value in keeping faith in Shamsi or giving Keshav Maharaj a run.
Shamsi could benefit from more cricket in national colours, but Maharaj also needs to be tested in the shorter format.
Playing both is an option, but given that the 4th ODI is also being played on what is expected to be a flat Kandy strip, that seems unlikely at this stage.
Mulder would be the likeliest to make way if South Africa did go in with two spinners, while Phehlukwayo must keep being entrusted with bowling in pressure situations at the death.
In the batting department, things have the potential to become complicated with Heinrich Klaasen in need of a game and the out-of-sorts Aiden Markram also an option to come back in.
Skipper Faf du Plessis is battling an injured shoulder, and if he is unavailable then that would make Klaasen’s entry straight-forward.
Markram, on the other hand, might have more difficulty forcing his way back in.
Hendricks will keep his place for the remainder of the series and with Duminy in good form, he will want to keep going.
Miller, too, needs as much time out in the middle as possible.
That means that, if Markram is to return, he will likely have to break up the opening partnership of Quinton de Kock and Amla.
Either Markram or Hendricks could go to the top of the order but given that Hendricks thrived at No 3 on Sunday it is likely to be Markram.
In that scenario, resting Amla would make the most sense.
Of course, the selectors might also consider Sri Lanka a complete write-off for Markram, who averages just 5.5 in all formats across what has been a nightmare tour, and leave him sidelined to prevent any further scarring.
That seemed to be the thinking ahead of the 3rd ODI, and it was a decision that gave Hendricks the platform to take his opportunity with opens arms.
In that case, a possible starting XI for the 4th ODI could be:
Amla, De Kock, Hendricks, Klaasen, Duminy, Miller, Mulder, Phehlukwayo, Maharaj, Dala, Ngidi.