Proteas are on the rebound‚ but is it enough for tough tour to Pakistan?
One of the teasing questions following South Africa’s comprehensive 2-0 Test series victory over Sri Lanka is whether it would have steeled them sufficiently for their tour of Pakistan.
They take on Pakistan in a two-Test series starting on the 26th of this month but the brevity of their series victory against a side ravaged by injury will perhaps raise concerns that they were not put through the wringer ahead of a series that is likely to put them to stern examination.
After all‚ the series ran its course inside just 472 overs and in that sense they are potentially victims of their own success. But if they did not get to tick all the boxes‚ it was only because some parts of their game operated at optimum levels.
They do‚ however‚ have much to crow about. They needed to bat just once at Centurion‚ which must have been a huge confidence booster for a team in need of a win.
Dean Elgar set himself apart with 253 runs scored in the series at an average of 126.5‚ while Faf du Plessis set a new personal best at Centurion‚ while also bursting through the 4‚000-run mark.
Given the South African dominance Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen might feel an opportunity missed to fill their boots in the series.
The former’s 68 at Centurion had the promise of something far more substantial‚ and although not quite on the same platter‚ Van der Dussen will feel he could have kicked on to a maiden ton before falling to an out-of-the-blue leg side catch at the Wanderers.
Temba Bavuma will feel an even keener sense of loss following the peculiar way in which he walked to gift his wicket to the Sri Lankans at Centurion.
Captain Quinton de Kock failed to make an impression in his two stints at the crease‚ but soon enough runs tend to come to him.
Apart from the opening day at Centurion and despite the absence of Kagiso Rabada‚ the South African attack would have drawn much confidence from the series.
On the bouncier Highveld surfaces this was to be expected.
Lungi Ngidi is returning to the form that paved the way for his initial selection‚ while Anrich Nortje continues to unhinge doors when more diplomatic means are exhausted. His uncluttered brief should remain bowling at pace‚ whether pitched up or at the throat.
It is however the emergence of Lutho Sipamla and the continued rise of allrounder Wiaan Mulder that would have firmed the belief South Africa possesses bowling depth.
Apart from his opening burst on debut at Centurion‚ Sipamla has been on point in the series. He will only get better.
Mulder has put his injury woes behind him and proved a compelling contributor in the series. His performances with the ball in particular would have met a nod of approval.
Mulder’s ability to break partnerships and impose himself on proceedings will in the fullness of time draw welcome comparisons.
“We must remember that the fast bowling attack did not have many Test matches behind them before this series‚ but they came together as a unit and showed incredible maturity‚” remarked Cricket South Africa's director of cricket Graeme Smith.
“I was very impressed with the way Anrich Nortje‚ Lungi Ngidi‚ Lutho Sipamla and Wiaan Mulder came together.”
The name he didn't mention was that of Keshav Maharaj‚ who went wicketless in the 25 overs he bowled in the first Test. He wasn’t required to bowl in the second‚ which may leave him a little underdone going into a Test series away to Pakistan.
South Africa‚ however‚ captured the wickets they needed to in this series. Smith was equally pleased De Kock’s maiden series as captain went without a hitch.
“It has been really encouraging to see how this fairly young team has progressed under the leadership of ‘Quinny’‚” said Smith.
Smith reminded that the 2-0 series win carries weight in a wider context. “This result also helps us make some good progress in the ICC World Test Championship and I’m sure the team will only get better from here‚” said the former captain.