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A special summer...


By all means, South Africa are under-achievers in the shorter formats of the game. However, their performances in the Test circuit have been noteworthy. Especially, since the last two years or so. The domination when (and post) they outplayed England and reigned supreme in the Test rankings, is something to be proud of for South African cricket fans.

In 8 matches they have played as the numero uno Test side, South Africa have won 6 and drawn 2 Tests. Not that such a feat has never been achieved before, but the way South Africans are dismantling teams is fearsome. In the 6 games where they have emerged victors, three are innings victories. And twice when they allowed the opposition to bat in the fourth innings, the victory margins were gigantic.

South Africa Team stats (since their No. 1 ranking in Tests)

Opposition Result Margin Won in (Days)
v Australia Draw - -
v Australia Draw - -
v Australia Won 309 runs 4 days
v New Zealand Won Innings and 27 runs 3 days
v New Zealand Won Innings and 193 runs 4 days
v Pakistan Won 211 runs 4 days
v Pakistan Won 4 wickets 4 days
v Pakistan Won Innings and 18 runs 3 days










It is not that South Africans have not been dismissed at a below-par score. But the batting order has shown their ability to quickly bounce back. On the other hand, their bowling unit has refused to budge against anyone. In fact, its tendency to rattle the opposition has reduced the duration of Tests.


Their batting was always a treat that made diversity look classy. And solid would be an understatement to describe South Africa’s batting performance since they have reached the pinnacle of the Test rankings.

Hashim Amla leads the list of top 5 run scorers since South Africa is number one in Tests. AB de Villiers’s comes second with 746 runs in 8 Tests. There were murmurs that AB’s batting form was failing to deceive since he started keeping wickets in Test cricket. But 17 dismissals as a wicket-keeper against Pakistan and his regained batting form since the last Test in Australia have once again made things stable for South Africa in the middle order.

Meanwhile, Graeme Smith- the skipper is currently on a landmark mode- 100 Tests and highest number of Tests as captain. But that has not overwhelmed biff with his batting form. Kallis’ presence in this is not surprising either. Amongst all these, Faf du Plessis' entry is the most satisfying. For long, he lived under the shadow of AB de Villiers. But with a brave match-saving knock in the second Test in Australia, Faf has earned the respect of the cricketing world.

With Amla refusing to slow down, Kallis scoring runs like he has always done, AB de Villiers re-finding the batting form, Smith continuing to fight and Faf du Plessis justifying his inclusion, South Africa have surely found a balance that will help them hold onto the numero-uno spot in Test rankings.

Top 5 Run Scorers (since their No. 1 ranking in Tests)

Player Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
H Amla 8 13 1 839 196 69.91 1418 59.16 3 4 0 92 2
AB de Villiers 8 13 2 746 169 67.81 1413 52.79 3 3 0 85 3
F du Plessis 7 10 2 558 137 69.75 1258 44.35 2 2 0 73 3
J Kallis 7 12 0 487 147 40.58 880 55.34 1 3 0 60 5
G Smith 8 13 0 439 122 33.76 793 55.35 1 3 1 55 0








‘The bowling attack that can take 20 wickets can turn a cricket team into a champion side’ is perhaps the most favourite go to line while commenting on Test cricket. It was true when the West Indian cricket team dominated world cricket. And it did not change when Australia was in all its pomp. This principle holds true with the current South African Test side too. Clichéd it may sound, but the idea of bowlers setting up matches is still relevant.

Number one Team or not, Dale Steyn has maintained the status-quo. To put it differently, he has kept himself busy rankling the opposition. Although Morne Morkel’s performance has gone down (relatively), the rise of Vernon Philander has balanced the scheme of things with 26 wickets in 6 games. Meanwhile, with Rory Kleinveldt, South Africa have found an able back-up option. Similarly, Abbott’s 7 for 29  in his debut and the series’ last Test against Pakistan is an indicator of the riches in pace bowling in South Africa.

South African pacers have looked in a great hurry to finish the games and not allow Peterson to bowl. However, his steady progress whenever he has got to bowl is a healthy sign. More so, since Imran Tahir’s experiment turned miserable.

Top 5 Run Scorers (since their No. 1 ranking in Tests)

Player Mat Inns Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave ER SR 5 10
D Steyn 8 15 290.5 75 778 45 6/8 11/60 17.28 2.67 38.7 3 1
V Philander 6 11 198 52 519 26 5/7 9/99 19.96 2.62 45.6 2 0
M Morkel 7 13 219.2 59 692 25 5/146 8/196 27.68 3.15 52.6 1 0
R Peterson 6 10 150.3 37 509 17 3/44 6/171 29.94 3.38 53.1 0 0
R Kleinveldt 4 7 111.1 21 422 10 3/65 4/97 42.2 3.79 66.7 0 0








All in all, as Smith had said, “it was a special summer” for South Africa. Not only have they won, they have done so in a style that’s suited for a number one side. And when the opposition has looked better on a certain day, albeit very few times, South Africa have shown the courage and tenacity to dig deep. Although there are opinions that Smith has not been an aggressive captain, with the side so motivated, he has not been pushed to make aggression so visible.

With a pace bowling attack that makes you feel you don’t belong and a batting unit that on most days, quite clinically and calmly disposes you off, Graeme Smith is the subject of many captains' envy. Barring Alastair Cook, every captain around the world would not mind being in Smith’s cricketing shoes; at least in Test cricket. If they do though, they are hiding the truth.

Stats by: Karna Yajnik

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