Does the batting performance in the second Test mean South Africa have turned the corner?
It’s too early to tell. A better assessment of where the team is at can only be made after the series against England has concluded, but the momentum has certainly shifted and the ‘ghosts of India’, as Faf du Plessis put it, should be a thing of the past.
A flat Newlands pitch with little deterioration over the five days, was exactly what the Proteas needed after the heavy defeat in Durban.
Most of the batsmen got some crucial runs, most notably Hashim Amla and Du Plessis, who batted brilliantly together to help force a draw. It will give their confidence a big boost ahead of the final two matches which South Africa now have to win if they want to clinch the series.
Scoring 627 runs is no mean feat, considering South Africa didn’t pass 250 once since the series against West Indies a year ago. To do it after Ben Stokes obliterated the bowling attack with some fine attacking batting is testimony to the team’s fighting spirit.
Considering the injuries they’ve had, specifically to the bowling attack, and the form of the batting unit, South Africa will do well not to lose this series. For nine years they had a proud away record where they didn’t lose a single series away from home. It’s time they try and establish a similar one on home soil.
Temba Bavuma also played a special knock to reach his maiden Test hundred which begs the question: Where does it leave JP Duminy?
Duminy was left out of the team to make way for Quinton de Kock, a decision which now seems justified not least of all because AB de Villiers will take over the captaincy from Amla, who resigned on Wednesday.
Where the bowling has been good over the last few months and the batting has struggled, the roles have now reversed as South Africa, as expected, struggled without Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Philander is out of the rest of the series, but Steyn has a 50% chance of playing at the Wanderers which will be a massive boost for South Africa.
While Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris showed promise at times at Newlands, both are still very inexperienced at Test level so Steyn’s availability could be a big factor in the outcome of the series.