South Africa wrapped up their three-Test series against the Windies with an eight-wicket win at Newlands. The 2-0 series lead now cements their spot at the top of the world rankings, even though they have to wait about six months before they get to play another Test. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks some key points from the series.
South Africa cemented their number one Test ranking with an eight-wicket victory over the West Indies in the third and final Test in Cape Town. The end result, a 2-0 series victory, is exactly what was expected of the hosts.
The series victory ensures that South Africa will remain top of the world rankings and as they did last year, they will pocket a cool US $475,000 at the April 2015 cut-off date. It will be the third successive year that South Africa have clinched this honour and it’s one that’s well deserved. Aside from the faux pas against Australia on home soil last year, South Africa have had a solid year. Against the West Indies, they showed once again why they deserve to be the number one ranked team in the world.
The third and final Test had glimpses of being a proper contest, but as has been the case for so much of the series, it turned into nothing. We’ve picked some of the key points from the series.
Hope turns to waste for the Windies
On rare occasions during the series against the West Indies, South Africa perhaps unexpectedly found themselves under the cosh. After the demolition job in Centurion, the West Indies started to win sessions. But South Africa absorbed and transferred that pressure back onto the West Indies. There are so many “what ifs” for the visitors to rue. If Kemar Roach did not get injured in the first Test, then maybe they would have pushed South Africa a bit more. If they had taken all their catches, then maybe things would have been different. If they had capitalised on South Africa being 58-3 in the first innings of the first Test, then perhaps the result would not have been so bleak. If just one of the players who got a start in Cape Town went on to convert, maybe they would have managed a draw. There was so much hope, but all of that was completely wasted.
South Africa’s renaissance
It has been mentioned a number of times on these pages before, but South Africa’s ability to have gone on since losing two of their stalwarts is quite special. The fact that three debutants in four Tests have made such an impression speaks volumes of the structures at domestic and high performance level. Dane Piedt in Zimbabwe, Stiaan van Zyl in Centurion and Simon Harmer in Cape Town all showed that there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings. After the doom and gloom of the series loss against Australia last year, they needed something special and wins in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and the trouncing of the Windies showed that the new kids on the block are just as good as the ones who have been around that block more than once.
With Petersen gone, Van Zyl should open
It was always going to happen at the end of this series. With his form waning and under pressure to perform, Alviro Petersen retired from Test cricket at the end of the series. Whether he scored runs or not, though, it was always likely that Petersen would call it a day. It is understood that he has a Kolpak contract lined-up, one which he would have had to honour regardless of his performances in his series. Petersen ends his international career with memorable hundreds at Eden Gardens on debut and against England at Headingley in 2012. While he almost certainly has time left in the tank, it was better to leave on his own terms rather than be dropped.
The frontrunner for the opening gig is Stiaan van Zyl. With JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock both due to return from injury, Van Zyl will most likely slot in next to Dean Elgar. His assessment will begin when South Africa A play the England Lions in two matches beginning on Sunday. The other, and perhaps more pragmatic option, is to let Faf du Plessis open in order to allow a left-hand, right-hand combo for the opening pair. Considering Du Plessis has only just taken up the responsibility of batting at three, this is a far less likely option, though.
While Van Zyl is not currently a regular opener, he has done so before on a number of occasions. He opened for most of his age-group career, including at under-19 level, and has done so in a number of limited overs games for the Cobras. He has also opened for the South African A-team on a tour to Sri Lanka. He spent the 2011-12 T20 season opening for the Cobras, scoring 444 runs at an average of 40.36, including a top score of an unbeaten 86.
Hashim Amla’s captaincy is top notch
Hashim Amla has only been in charge of South Africa for six Tests, but already he has shown that he has the nerve to captain South Africa to some memorable wins. His batting prowess aside, there were quite a few occasions during this series where Amla’s crafty thinking brought rewards for South Africa. The standout moment came on the afternoon of the fourth day of the third Test. Deep into the afternoon and with Marlon Samuels just dismissed, Amla persisted with the combination of Steyn and Harmer to wiggle out the tail. While Steyn was in the zone, Harmer was keeping things tight and, as a result, the wickets tumbled with the West Indies losing six wickets for 13 runs. It was a simple trick, but Amla helped set the traps perfectly. Of course it helped that Steyn had clever plans of his own for foxing Jermaine Blackwood with the swing, but Amla’s trust in his bowlers deserves a pat on the back. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Morne Morkel celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Jerome Taylor during the second day of their third test match in Cape Town January 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings