Rob Houwing

Proteas’ win ranks with greats

2012-07-24 10:27
Sport24 Chief Writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - Placed in its context, South Africa’s crushing triumph by an innings in the first Test against England at The Oval ought to go down among their most illustrious ever - especially if they now go on to earn a second successive series triumph on those shores.

This was just about as imperious as it gets for our country’s Test cricketers, remembering that the match began with some question marks around the Proteas’ preparedness after coming out of the domestic mid-winter, England’s widely revered status as current world No 1, and the sobering fact also that they had never previously lost to these particular tourists at the venue.

Andrew Strauss’s buoyant - well, at the time - side slightly bossing the first day’s play might only have added to angst in certain South African quarters last Thursday evening. 

Instead, as a former home captain, Mike Atherton, ruefully admitted in commentary after the game was wrapped up in some style by the tourists on Monday, England were largely “pulverised from days two to five”.

The humungous headline act in this Test may have been Hashim Amla, with his maiden triple-ton by any South African batsman, but just as pleasing in many respects was the broad team effort that went into the victory on a pitch that did require a fair bit of old-fashioned sweat both at the crease and in the field to achieve a healthy foothold.

So much, frankly, was simply so satisfying for Proteas enthusiasts, including the fact that two blue-chip warriors who entered the series with tiny, barely-deserved yet niggling reservations about their Test records in England - Jacques Kallis with blade and Dale Steyn with ball - delivered fulsomely in their respective specialist areas.

There was also a colossal personal statement of series intent from captain Graeme Smith, who traditionally adores batting in that country, often breaking home hearts in the process, and achieved the delightful outcome of a century in his 100th appearance in this premier format.

He will deserve every second of his hiatus from the tour as he returns home for the birth of his first child, aided by a gap of nearly two weeks until the second of the three Tests at Leeds, where South Africa can target an early series kill and theft of England’s top-dog status.

Here’s something else to chew on: if you had said to AB de Villiers before the first encounter that he would be assuming wicket-keeping duties in a match where the Proteas would concede as many as 82 extras (43 and then a second-innings 39), and he would not trouble the scorers with his bat, he might have been well entitled to say “no thanks, I’m not up for this, even if this is our hour of sudden need”.

But the stats say so little, in fact, about his mostly admirable showing behind the stumps on a pitch which made the trade hazardous at times. Mark Boucher would have had one or two hairy moments as well, for all his time-honoured and now sadly ceased virtues.

Yes, De Villiers would have been quietly gutted to have put down a relatively simple chance off Imran Tahir’s multi-trick bowling from the resolute Ian Bell on Monday - it didn’t prove massively expensive - but there were few other genuine gremlins from him over the course of a mentally and physically gruelling match.

Only 13 of those afore-mentioned 82 “sundries” came in byes, with a swollen quota of no-balls, wides and leg-byes - which the gloveman is usually powerless to prevent - just indicative of a bowling line-up not fully re-acclimatised to the cares of Test cricket after several months off.

Nor does anyone need reminding that De Villiers only left The Oval scoreless with the willow because he was not even required at No 5 as South Africa’s lone scorecard was the sort to place with pride in a frame above a bar counter back home: let’s say it again and again ... 637 for two declared!

With there having been some good reason for people to fear that the first Test might prove the Proteas’ toughest of the trio, instead it is England now shrouded in angst and requiring at least some measure of introspection after this ego-bruising.

As South Africa warm to the short series challenge ever more proficiently - at least that is what they will hope is to happen - several initially England-favouring neutrals (notably someone like Shane Warne) are beginning to change their tunes with stealth.

The next Test ground of Headingley will not hold any special fears for Smith’s side: South Africa have won both of their last two fixtures there, in 2008 (by 10 wickets) and 2003 (by 191 runs).

There have been no draws there, incidentally, in 12 Tests since Pakistan shared the honours with England back in 1996.

Especially if the Proteas can stave off complacency and inconsistency, flaws that they have worked hard to remedy over the past year or two, the planets just seem to be aligning themselves quite nicely for them ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas in england  |  cricket
NEXT ON SPORT24X

Bok-free Lions making merry

2014-10-23 10:00

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

 

4 exercise excuses and how to beat them

Now is the time to kick those excuses right out the door!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Watch: Insane road bike skills!
The most extreme journey ever?
Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!
Adventure holidays for your bucket list
 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Featured

Got something you'd like to get off your chest? Got a burning desire to air an opinion? If so, be sure to sign-up on Sport24's FORUM!

Latest blogs
Vote

Western Province and the Golden Lions will do battle at Newlands on Saturday, October 25 for the 2014 Absa Currie Cup title. Who will lift the trophy after 80 minutes?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

Forum Have your Say on Sport24's brand new Forum!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.