Cape Town - A timely, increasingly impressive trend in one-day international bowling economy may well be pushing Dwaine Pretorius closer to nailing down South Africa's vexing No 7 berth for the 2019 World Cup.
The Lions all-rounder occupied the spot in Saturday's loss to Pakistan in the first of five ODIs at St George's Park, and it was through no fault of his own that the Proteas played second fiddle.
Pretorius did not get to take guard - neither did six other team-mates in their unusual total of 266 for two after taking first strike - but bowled a full spell of 10 overs for the most parsimonious economy rate of any colleague as he leaked only 42 runs, albeit going wicketless.
But a pleasing pattern is also developing: it was the fourth time in his last five ODI appearances, all of which have involved maximum-overs spells by the lanky competitor, in which he has travelled at beneath five runs to the over.
Although both all-rounders played in Port Elizabeth at the weekend, Pretorius looks more and more like the "incumbent" at No 7 ahead of Andile Phehlukwayo in the mind of coach Ottis Gibson and others, as he has held the spot for all of the last three ODIs and seems destined to do so once more in game two of the series at Kingsmead on Tuesday (13:00 start).
Right now, Pretorius is looking the more reliable option as fifth bowler in the line-up, and it is at least partly reflected in how much more often he is entrusted with the full 10 overs in ODIs.
He has completed that task in seven of his 15 bowling innings, whereas Phehlukwayo has only done so on a skimpy four occasions in 35.
Admittedly there have been plenty of occasions where the latter, especially, has shared his ration of overs with someone like part-time off-spinner and seasoned batting factor JP Duminy, who is currently on the recovery path from injury.
But you get the sense, nevertheless, that the slightly brisker Pretorius is increasingly deemed more "trustworthy" by the team's masterminds for keeping a lid on the runs.
Considering his ability to nip the ball away a little from the right-hander at the crease (Phehlukwayo relies rather more on a mix-it-up range of skills) Pretorius also looks like a better option strategically for English pitches, on which CWC 2019 matches will be staged.
There are nine matches left (four against Pakistan, a further five against Sri Lanka) for the No 7 problem - it has quite long been considered that - to be meaningfully resolved, so the sands of time are trickling out for any additional players like Chris Morris or veteran Test kingpin Vernon Philander to re-enter the radar.
Young Wiaan Mulder has also only just returned to best fitness after a long-term injury and has ground to make up in a relative hurry.
Latest noise from the camp suggests that they especially desire an all-rounder who will offer satisfying batting credentials at seven, so again Pretorius may boast the inside lane if technical orthodoxy and acumen is going to be deemed a superior quality to sheer use of the long handle brazenly from time to time.
The 29-year-old unquestionably sports better general statistical returns with the blade than someone like Phehlukwayo: his first-class average is 37.95 to his rival's 20.46, and domestic limited-overs (List A) one 31.88, as opposed to 20.47.
It must be said that the more youthful Dolphins player has a superior average specifically in ODIs, although his 26.90 is inflated by almost half his knocks being late-innings "not outs" - hardly a crime, of course -- and Pretorius (16.83) has only batted seven times in the format so far.
Bowling-wise, Pretorius has 22 ODI wickets at an average of 27.09 and overall economy rate, though it has gradually been coming down, of 4.79.
Phehlukwayo has 44 scalps at 31.09, and leaks runs more obviously: economy 5.75.
Right now, and although things could change, Phehlukwayo and any other late chargers have got to go some: the ticket to No 7 seems more Pretorius's to lose than anything else ...
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