Self-belief drives Miller's adaptable new game

'Belief factor is more in my game now' - Miller (3:08)

South Africa batsman David Miller talks after scoring a century in the second ODI against Sri Lanka (3:08)

In his last three ODI innings, David Miller has won South Africa two matches, doubled his century count and lifted his strike rate to 103.6. It may be too early to be properly excited about this but Miller could finally be turning into the finisher South Africa envisioned when they first picked him almost seven years ago: a Herschelle Gibbs who comes in mid-innings, a Lance Klusener without the bowling, a bringer of X-factor to major tournaments.

"He is not just a power hitter, he is a smart batter as well now," Faf du Plessis, who shared in a 117-run fifth-wicket stand with Miller in the second ODI against Sri Lanka, said. "He has become a real world-class batter now. He knows that 30s and 40s are not what's going to make him a great and he is beginning to believe he can do more now and that is obviously going to win us games of cricket, which is fantastic and it's going to make him into a world-class batter."

Miller's maturity is the most obvious development in his career, which he began as a boy specialising in belligerent cameos and has now evolved into a man who understands his role in the team. Most importantly, he knows that the role will change depending on the fortunes of the talent-laden top six.

Given who bats before him - Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy - there will be times when Miller will not get the opportunity for much more than a blitz to bring the innings to a close. But there will also be times when South Africa are in trouble and then, instead of contributing to the collapse, Miller will have to shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding.

"He knows that 30s and 40s are not what's going to make him a great and he is beginning to believe he can do more now and that is obviously going to win us games of cricket" Faf du Plessis on David Miller's development

When Miller's form suggested that he would not be able to do that job - he went 16 innings and eight months without a half-century in 2015 - he was left out of the side to play England and a triangular series in the Caribbean. That was the wake-up call he needed.

"It was getting dropped and then the penny dropped as well," he said. "I worked on a few technical things - playing the ball a little bit later makes a huge difference. Early in my career I was really pushing at the ball and I do still at times. But it's coming into my game more to get myself in and trust that, if I'm going at that 60 or 70 strike rate, it's okay. I can catch up at the end."

In Miller's most recent hundreds, he has been circumspect at the start. He was 5 off 15 balls against Australia last October before he took 15 runs off an Adam Zampa over to get the ball rolling. He was 39 off 52 balls against Sri Lanka on Wednesday night, and then struck successive sixes straight down the ground to bring up his half-century.

"It was unexpected, because Faf and I spoke the ball before and said let's just keep knocking them around and trying to build the partnership - play low-risk cricket. And I just smacked two sixes over his head and Faf said, 'What was the whole chat about?'," Miller said. "I said it was quite full and I needed to go. I thought my positions were getting a lot better at that stage and I was backing myself to clear the ropes."

Clean hitting has always been a strength of Miller's, so much so that he puts some of team-mates to shame - "I feel like I hit baby sixes compared to what he does," du Plessis said - but he has now learnt to be more selective about the deliveries he punishes and he puts more effort into strike-rotation. "He can shift gears and adapt his game plan to the situation," du Plessis explained.

On a pitch du Plessis said slowed down after the first ten overs, keeping the scoreboard ticking was important. Miller ran 51 singles and nine twos, to accumulate most of his runs with hard work and saving the big hits for the end.

South Africa scored 78 runs in the last seven overs, Miller hit two of his three fours and three of his six sixes in that time and shared in a 60-run stand with Chris Morris. Having lower-order allrounders to bat with has been "comforting" to Miller because he knows they can help at the death and he hopes to help them develop into the kind of finisher he is becoming.

"I knew it would be of more benefit if we batted until the last 10 overs and then we could clear the ropes. But we had to build a foundation and bat some time, which was nice to do. It was about trying to bat as long as I could and give them the opportunity, at the end, if it came," Miller said. "I've learnt a lot in my career so far, and I believe everything's a journey. I'm going in the right direction. It's all about putting in the hard work and then believing it as well. That belief factor is coming into my game a lot more."