SA got job done

January 6, 2015 Amla and De Villiers played their part

South Africa did what was expected of them and brushed aside a moderate West Indies to win the series 2-0.

It should have been, and surely would have been 3-0, but for the rain which ruined the second Test in Port Elizabeth. But the tourists were poor and disinterested for large patches throughout.

Just like they have been for the past 15 years. Since 2000, they have only won one Test match away from home against opposition that is not Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. That’s a stat that was never likely to change on this tour.

There were some fine performances from the South Africans. The innings and 220-run thumping at Centurion was their biggest-ever victory over the West Indians. In that match Hashim Amla scored a double hundred, AB de Villiers 152 and Stiaan van Zyl a hundred on debut. Dale Steyn took 6-34 in the second innings as the tourists crumbled to 131 all out.

In the rain-ruined Port Elizabeth Test, Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis helped themselves to hundreds and then the Proteas enjoyed a 142-run first innings lead until the weather had the final say.

At Newlands, De Villiers got another big hundred and Steyn and Simon Harmer chipped in with seven wickets apiece.

So, in total, South Africa batted four times and scored 552-5 declared, 417, 421 and 124-2.

No matter which way one sugarcoats it, the Windies were thumped. They came to the No1-ranked Test-playing country ranked No8 in the world and weakened by a few key players’ no shows. No one expected them to stand toe-to-toe for five days with the Proteas and win. They ought to be more competitive in the shorter formats that follow the Tests, because as we know, the shorter the match the more chance the weaker teams have to cause an upset.

However, what the Test series did for me was put another nail in the coffin of the five-day format. South Africa should be regularly competing against the better countries, but what we are now faced with are two Tests in Bangladesh in July, before England come knocking in December.

That will be a big series, but such are few and far between. By the time the English arrive there will be the usual chirps about ‘will Hashim be able to retire another England captain like Graeme Smith did’.

But Alviro Petersen’s Test days are over, having retired after another disappointing, nervy series against the West Indies. It would have made no sense whatsoever to send him to Bangladesh to regain his confidence when the selectors should have been blooding new opening batting talent ahead of the England visit. Stiaan van Zyl is now the obvious choice at the top of the order to replace Petersen.

Of course, this does create the scenario of two left-handers opening the batting, but it didn’t go too badly for Australia when they had Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

Harmer had an impressive debut at Newlands and got turn, bounce and drift, but some of his wickets were gift-wrapped by disinterested Windies players collapsing in usual fashion, and I’d still suggest that Dane Piedt should be ahead of him in the pecking order when it comes to Test selection.

Yet, all the Test talk will now fade away as focus turns to the T20s and then the ODIs that will carry us into the World Cup in the middle of February.

South Africa were never going to be challenged and that they did what was expected of them, given the opposition. But, one year down the line we are not going to look back and say, ‘wow, what a series’. And that, in itself, isn’t a good sign for Test cricket.

As for the West Indies, those who are holding on to the romantic notion that they will be back as a major Test force are looking through rose-tinted glasses.



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