South Africa lost seven wickets for 33 runs to collapse in the most disgraceful fashion, handing Pakistan a series victory in Rawalpindi.
The Proteas started the afternoon session with hopes of an incredible Test victory, with Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma standing firm after two early wickets in the morning session. They ended it as a laughing stock, undone by the irrepressible Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali, who ripped them to shreds with the new ball.
241-4 became 274 all out. This team has a surplus of spineless characters, among them skipper Quinton de Kock, who was out first ball playing a booming and senseless drive. When your leader shows such deep disregard for the match situation, it makes it easier for others to follow. And, others followed.
It all started with Markram’s dismissal shortly after Pakistan decided to take the new nut.
He may still be in the change room right now lamenting his decision to lazily hang his bat out to an arrow-straight delivery. It was a soft dismissal, one that wasn’t worthy of dismissing a batsman who for so long had carried the hopes of his nation.
Markram repeatedly slammed his bat with his fist, knowing that his brain fade must have cost what could have been a memorable Test victory. He shouldn’t be too hard on himself. His was an innings of high skill, discipline and, most importantly, bags of temperament.
Markram would have hoped his resistance would have inspired his skipper, De Kock. Instead what strode to the wicket was a shadow of the once brilliant player. The shot he played to get out first ball, a booming drive to an out-swinging delivery, was a disgrace. In a Test he needed to show some fight, any fight, he surrendered meekly. His Test future must now come into question.
Markram was dismissed on 241. The Proteas then had a procession of wickets, among those Bavuma, who played well for his 61. The Proteas have mastered the art of cluster collapses. Until that is remedied, they will continue to be a non-factor in Test cricket.
They don’t play Test cricket again until late in 2021. That seems merciful scheduling now, given the depth of dysfunction in this team.
They have to find a new skipper, given that De Kock won’t continue. Questions must also be asked of coach Mark Boucher and his staff. Boucher has won just three of eight Tests in charge. The bulk of those defeats has been by absolute miles. He is contracted until 2023, which complicates matters for a cash-strapped Cricket South Africa. But there are now legitimate questions about his suitability.
There is still a T20I series to be played, which South Africa will contest with a side comprised of second-string players. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.