With the Test series between England and South Africa now done and dusted, ANT SIMS runs the rule over the team’s performance and ventures where few dare to tread: justifying player ratings at the end of an epic contest.
Graeme Smith 8/10
When it comes to “stuff you” tours, nobody does it better than the South African skipper. It was expected that he’d score runs in England, but to do so under pressure takes something special and Smith didn’t disappoint. While some of his field settings were odd at times, Smith stepped up to the plate when it mattered, scoring 272 runs in three matches at an average of 54.40. Smith has had some tough times in the last 12 months, but he’s bounced back and his exploits against the old enemy should set the tone for the tough few months ahead.
Alviro Petersen 6/10
Petersen’s had some ups and downs since the start of his career, and he was under immense pressure to get some runs. While his teammates had a ball at the Oval, Petersen missed out, but he came back strongly at Leeds with a tremendous 182 in the first innings. He flapped again the second and in both innings at Lord’s, but Petersen proved he does have the mettle to grind out a performance when it really matters. Whether he can follow that up in Australia, however, will be the next challenge.
Hashim Amla 9/10
Amla's series was nearly faultless. He's the highest run-scorer for South Africa (and in the series) with a massive 482 runs at an average of 120.50. Say it out loud because it's simply magnificent: one hundred and twenty. His unbeaten 311 at The Oval was quite possibly one of the best knocks, if not the best knock in Test cricket this year and while he hit a bit of a snag at Headingley, Amla concluded his tour with another 100 at Lord's. Not a single player had a perfect series, but Amla had it as good as it gets and his overall Test average is now just 0.05 below 50. Impressive for a guy who people thought wasn’t good enough to cut it on the international stage.
Jacques Kallis 7/10
Kallis came on tour to England with a bit of an albatross around his neck – he doesn't quite click with England. Kallis then did what Kallis does so well: responded by scoring runs, loads of 'em. He notched up 182 not out at The Oval as he combined with Amla to ground England to dust. The remainder of his series wasn't great with the bat, but he did his bit with the ball – chipping in with 65 overs in the three matches and picking up four wickets in the process. Not bad for an old man.
AB de Villiers 7/10
There is seemingly no end to De Villiers' enthusiam. No matter what he does, AB does it with boundless energy and he rarely puts a foot wrong. He chipped in with a couple of 40-odds to help South Africa out of a few sticky positions, but his keeping was somewhat disappointing. With Mark Boucher being ruled out of the series unexpectedly with injury in the first warm up match, de Villiers was thrown into the deep end. Keeping for anybody is tough in England – De Villiers wasn't atrocious, but he wasn't superb either. If South African selectors had hoped that this would answer their conundrum of whether de Villiers is the answer for the future, they surely have it – he's not.
Jacques Rudolph 6/10
Since Rudolph made his Test debut with an unbeaten 222, he has been under the magnifying glass. He had no chance to bat at The Oval and managed a scratchy, but vital, 69 in Leeds and a handy 42 at Lord's, but Rudolph still manages to get himself out in the most unnecessary ways.
JP Duminy 6.5/10
Since his debut in Australia, Duminy’s not quite lived up to the expectation he created. It was always going to be tough for him to match his Melbourne exploits, but Duminy is a feisty player and he’ll always fight to make things work. He scored some good runs against England, but the shot he played to get out at Lord’s was unacceptable. After working hard for his runs and settling in, Duminy seemed to forget how to leave bad balls and wafted at a rank wide delivery from Jimmy Anderson which sent him on his merry way. On the bright side, at least he didn’t get out to spinner once.
Vernon Philander 8/10
At the end of the Lord’s Test, when Philander was asked whether he was as good as his numbers showed he was, he promptly answered: stats don’t lie – much to the amusement of Graeme Smith and the press contingent. Philander bowled incredibly well all series, for very little luck. There were loads of little edges which didn’t carry to the slips, but he still managed to pick up 12 wickets – with an incredibly impressive economy rate of 2.35 at an average of 23.66. It's perhaps not the five-for-in-every-game kind of performance Philander has become accustomed to, but there is no doubting that the Ravensmead Wrecker has cemented his place as one of the leaders of the already fearsome South African attack. Add to his bowling that he can bat a little and contributing some crucial runs down the order at Lord's and Philander is right, stats don’t lie.
Dale Steyn 7/10
Steyn has had the kind of series you expect a bowler of his calibre to have. He was slightly off the boil in the first innings at the Oval, but the pace man responded with a five-for in the second innings. After bagging his first stick, Steyn put his hand up in what looked like signalling to the media that he had bagged five, but the Phalaborwa Express he simply wanted a high five and nobody reciprocated. He finished top-wicket taker in the series, including a five-wicket haul, Steyn is on top of the world and justifiably so. He's been shifted from opening the bowling to the first change bowler, and he's slotted into the role without much fuss. Steyn has dropped a little pace lately, but he is still fierce and threatening and the kind of player anybody would pick for their team.
Morne Morkel 6.5/10
Morkel ‘s biggest failure on the tour is that his nagging no-ball problem seems to be rearing its ugly head again. It was magnified for all to see when he managed to get Matt Prior out while the England keeper was trying to keep his team in the game, but Morkel had bowled a no ball and Prior was given a second life. Fortunately for Morkel, Prior’s resistance didn’t last long, but it’s minor errors like that which could cost him dearly in pressure situations. He did well when tasked with getting Andrew Strauss out – and he has done so eight times in eleven Tests already. Morkel has some work to do ahead of Australia, but he can take plenty of positives from his time out in England.
Imran Tahir 5/10
Tahir does have an impressive artillery of deliveries, but the leg-spinner doesn’t seem to quite understand his role yet. He’s an attacking leg spinner and while his primary role is to take wickets, Tahir doesn’t quite fathom that he needs to sometimes play more of a holding role. His over-excitement is another concern – he can bowl one bamboozling googly and follow it up with a ball that bounces twice. His stock leg break ball seems to come and go and he oversteps the line far too often. He did it eight times at The Oval and nine times in Leeds, the problem didn’t resurface at Lord’s, but Tahir’s nagging inconsistency is a concern. Not quite a big enough of a concern to leave one longing for the day of Paul Harris, but Tahir still has a lot of work to do ahead of a tough summer for South Africa. DM
Photo: South Africa's Jacques Kallis holds the ICC mace on a lap of honour after South Africa defeated England in the third cricket test match at Lord's in London August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown