South Africa failed to make it a 3-0 series win against England when they rather tamely went down by 6 wickets in the final Test. A 2-1 win represents their first series win in England since 1965 and is something they would have taken with no hesitation before the series began, especially considering their opening 3 days of the Test series. Job done for Smith and his team.
South Africa are well on their way to challenging Australia at the end of this year for Test superiority and have a lot of hope going into that home and away series, hope that they can back up with results. They managed to beat England in a series where their main weapon, their pace attack, did not function anywhere near their best. Steyn only played in 2 of the 4 Tests due to injury, Ntini was not at his usual best, and Morkel, their promising star, was very inconsistent. Morkel still ended the series as top wicket taker, with James Anderson. There is much more to come from this attack. Their batting is coming together very well and is looking more dependable then ever. This series saw their best player, Kallis, go through a run of low scores that he hasn’t seen since his career began. With the mainstay of their batting scoring just one half century, and barely getting into double figures in any other innings, it was up to the rest to contribute. And that they did. Smith and Prince each scored two centuries, with Amla, Mckenzie and de Villiers also notching tons. The consistency and mental strength are there.
South Africa, although not playing near their best, would have still loved to have completed a 3-0 trouncing of England, to emphasis just how far they’ve come. And that result was there for the taking. But as we’ve seen time and time again, even with Australia, dead rubbers are often won by the team losing the series. After gaining their first win in England since readmission it was hard for the players to show the same intensity and focus that was needed. The will may have been there but the spark needed wasn’t. Which is why I am in favour of changing the team for these matches. South Africa like to be consistent in their line up, choosing the same winning team no matter what. But giving guys like Zondeki and Duminy and Peterson a game, particularly as they have been on tour for so long and have not featured, would have been more beneficial. They would have had the focus and intensity that others were missing. Duminy would have made his Test debut, and gotten some practice and match time, with intensity and quality, before the ODI series, something that tour matches often lack. I’m also for rewarding domestic form, and Zondeki, who was the leading domestic bowler, should have been given a chance. Zondeki and Peterson are not part of the ODI team and so will fly home having not featured. That should have been addressed. They would have supplied the spark needed do give the team a chance at a 3-0 drubbing.
For now though the South Africans will be looking towards the ODI series, with the knowledge that the Test series has been won, and that their goals and targets are being met. All with Australia in December pushed to the back of their heads, but still floating around.
(pic from cricinfo.com)