It is challenging to get two cricket pundits to agree on any kind of fantasy Test XI, so we have been entirely objective by picking a team based solely on runs scored in each batting position.
Here is a South African all-time Test XI where each member of the team earned their place by having the most Test runs in their corresponding batting positions.
1. Graeme Smith – 6,354 in 133 innings batting at 1
- As the long-time leader of the Proteas, Smith more often than not led South Africa into battle taking strike first in 133 of his 205 Test innings. Smith also scored 22 of his 27 Test centuries after facing the first ball of the innings.
2. Herschelle Gibbs – 3,865 runs in 85 innings batting at 2
- Smith’s oft partner-in-crime, Gibbs formed a prolific partnership with the skipper, and they are arguably South Africa’s greatest opening pair. Gibbs racked up most of his Test runs from No 2, but also aggregated more than 1,000 when taking strike first.
3. Hashim Amla – 7,993 runs in 174 innings batting at 3
- For almost as long as he was in the national team picture, Amla was the quintessential Test No 3. He scored his South African record 311 not out from the position as well as a further 24 hundreds.
4. Jacques Kallis – 9,033 in 170 innings batting at 4
- Kallis scored more than 3,000 runs in the No 3 slot but was truly dominant when he took up the No 4 position in the batting order. Averaging an impressive 61.86 across 170 innings at second drop, Kallis scored 35 Test tons from the position among his 9,033 runs.
5. AB de Villiers – 3,913 runs in 74 innings batting at 5
- Later in his career, he would make the No 4 slot his own but De Villiers established himself in the Proteas team at five and six and has scored the most runs in both positions. De Villiers scored 3,913 runs from No 5, including his Test-best 278 not out plundered against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
6. Jonty Rhodes – 1,813 runs in 49 innings batting at 6
- De Villiers surpassed Rhodes in terms of runs scored from No 6 in the Test batting order as early as 2008, but it would be unfair to compare their contributions. Add to that the fact that Rhodes was an inspiration to De Villiers both as a fielder and an innovative batsman.
7. Mark Boucher – 2,939 runs in 124 innings batting at 7
- Boucher scored just one of his five Test centuries from the No 7 slot but played 124 innings from the position. Quinton de Kock is closing in on Boucher but may see the number of innings he plays down at seven cut dramatically in the future.
8. Shaun Pollock – 1,796 runs in 79 innings batting at 8
- Boucher also comes in second on the list of Test runs scored for South Africa from No 8 behind Pollock. Pollock’s 99 not out from the position against Sri Lanka stands out as one of his finest knocks in Test cricket and won him the man of the match award. He also struck two tons at nine in the order.
9. Nicky Boje – 804 runs in 37 innings batting at 9
- The left-arm spinner made a bigger splash on the international scene with his batting than his bowling. He batted everywhere from No 3 to his customary 9, scoring 804 of his Test runs as the ninth man in.
10. Dale Steyn – 568 runs in 61 innings batting at 10
- The Phalaborwa Express at one time deserved to bat at No 10, but he soon outgrew the role yet not before he established a new standard for runs in the slot. Allan Donald had held the record before, but Steyn is without a doubt a better batsman than the man who was among his childhood heroes.
11. Makhaya Ntini – 344 runs in 76 innings batting at 11
- Ntini is one of the great Test number XIs, offering entertainment in the short spells he spent at the crease. Ntini holds the record largely by virtue of having played the more Test innings at No 11 than any other South African.
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