Given the scant opportunities Janneman Malan has had to play for the Proteas, one could forgive the 25-year-old opener for being anxious when he did get the chance against Ireland.
But the eventual Player of the Series just looked completely calm and in control during his two innings, and to have that sort of composure and temperament is like gold for an international batsman.
Malan top-scored in both ODI innings for South Africa, stroking 84 off 96 balls in the second game and then a magnificent 177 not out off 169 deliveries in the third and decisive match.
With the first game washed out, the Proteas won the final ODI by 70 runs to level the series 1-1.
“At this level, you don’t know how many games you’re going to get, so to help myself mentally I just tell myself that if I am going to miss the next match then I must go out on my own terms,” Malan said after sharing a brilliant first-wicket stand of 225 in 36 overs with Quinton de Kock.
“I back myself and I don’t want to play out of desperation to keep my spot. I just let go and do my best, and if that’s not good enough then I can deal with that.
“I wasn’t thinking of Gary Kirsten’s record 188 not out, I was just in the zone, in the moment. By then I was in that flow-state, just watching the ball and playing every ball on its merits.”
Coach Mark Boucher believed batting with De Kock, who stroked a masterful 120 off 91 deliveries, would finance a great deal of learnings for young Malan, who has played just seven ODIs but has scored a world-record 483 runs in that time.
“Janneman has been waiting on the sidelines for quite some time, but now that he’s got some opportunity and a taste of international cricket, he’s really done well,” Boucher said.
“So our depth pool is getting quite big and he has certainly taken his opportunity. Batting with Quinny, he would have learned a helluva lot, and in the end he was smashing it all over the park.
“He’s given the selectors a good headache, it’s a good thing. It’s tough because all the guys in contention are quality cricketers and ideally we’d want them all to play.”