The boxing day Test in Durban could potentially be the turning point for this Protea’s team. Two years ago in Australia they secured their first ever Test series win in Australia with a win in the Boxing Day Test. What should have been the start of a dominant period for the Protea’s turned on its head after that. They lost their next 3 Tests, losing the return home series against Australia, and then failed in both the T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy. While 2008 was great, 2009 was not.
SO they now have the chance to launch themselves again. Last weeks thumping thrashing of the number one ranked Test team has given South Africa the chance to claim the series in Durban, and potentially set up a 3-0 whitewash which will take South Africa to the top ranking in Test cricket. While India have been steady and impressive in reaching the number one spot, there was always the feeling that they had to win outside India to justify the position. They’ll need a lot more fight to make up for the thrashing the received in the first Test. Zaheer Khan’s return should give the bowling a bit of spirit, but in truth they’ll need more of their attack to stand up, and not expect Zaheer to take on the South African’s on his own.
Hashim Amla will play his 50th Test match at his home ground of Kingsmead this Boxing Day. His brilliant form this year will be tested at a ground where he is yet to have an impact on the international scene. When Hashim scored a century at Lords in 2008 he stated that the ultimate would be a ton at Kingsmead, his home, rather than Lords, the home of cricket. The form he’s been in this year, he’ll have all the opportunity in the world to fix his poor record in Durban, and get the achievement he deserves in his 50th Test. It would be a just and fitting end to a great year for the star batsman. How they work the ICC rankings is baffling. While Amla’s form has seen him rise up the ODI rankings to number 2, the century he scored last week saw him climb to number 9? Surely he should be way higher than that?
This series will also see the South Africans begin their search for a new coach. Corrie van Zyl will step down after the World Cup and go back to his role at the High Performance Centre. Van Zyl has done a great job since taking over from Arthur, but always made it clear that it would be a temporary appointment. Those who are being talked about include former captain Kepler Wessels, Richard Pybus, who’s had a successful time in South African domestic cricket, and has coached internationally with Pakistan, and most interestingly, current India coach and South African legend Gary Kirsten. Kirsten will not be renewing his contract with India, and the timing does fit perfectly. Someone who has not been mentioned, but who I think would be a great choice, is the former Protea and current Dolphins coach, Graham Ford. Ford took over from Bob Woolmer in 1999 and lead the team to 8 series wins in 11. He was unlucky to be on the receiving end of two thrashings by Australia which cost him the job. Australia were thrashing everyone at that time so it was harsh to say the least. He deserves a fair crack at the highest level again, and his coaching and tactical knowledge would be perfect to ensure the team doesnt lose focus, as they did in 2009.
All that having been said, lets hope the weather doesnt ruin what should be a great match this week. The rain in Durban over the last month and a bit needs to take a bit of a break and give everyone what we need – an enjoyable festive season.
pic from cricinfo.com