By: Chinmay Vaidya
Rassie van der Dussen picked an excellent time to break out on the world stage.
The middle-order batsmen scored 50 not out, his third half century of the series, in the fifth and final ODI of a 3-2 series victory for South Africa over Pakistan. van der Dussen was South Africa's top run scorer with 241 runs over the five games and provided an explosiveness that had been missing in the team's lineup for quite some time.
Pakistan gave a good effort through four games with Imam ul-Haq leading the way. He was top run scorer in the series overall with 271 runs, but failed to click in the defining ODI match. Pakistan's top order of ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam returned to form in the series, but its middle order struggles continued. 38-year old Mohammed Hafeez can only anchor the middle order for so long. It was surprising to see Asif Ali miss this series given his ability to carry the middle order. Imad Wasim and Sarfaraz Ahmed did not produce as expected.
van der Dussen adds more pop to a lineup lacking firepower since AB de Villiers hung up the gloves. Quinton de Kock flashed his batting chops with a strong 83 in the final ODI and David Miller remains an elite finisher, but South Africa needed a middle order presence with the ability to score runs in a hurry. van der Dussen provides that. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis continued their solid play as anchors in the batting lineup and let the smackers pour in runs around them. If Aiden Markram can get back into the lineup, South Africa should have enough batting on paper to match England and India in a one-day competition.
As the 2019 World Cup draws closer, both South Africa and Pakistan will be looking to sneak into the semifinal round. Outside of England and India, there are hardly any teams you can pencil into those four semifinal spots. This series was a good litmus test for both sides and given that it finished 3-2, it shows how close these two teams really are in terms of talent. South Africa has found it's explosive middle order run scorer just in time for World Cup play. van der Dussen's emergence makes the Proteas a dangerous squad in the one-day game.