Cape Town – Hotter and hotter as the series progressed, Kagiso Rabada’s astonishing achievements with the ball at the age of only 20 earn him top score on our performance card for the South African players in the 2-1 home Test series defeat to England.
Not far behind, and the pick of the batting bunch, comes established maestro Hashim Amla, who relished being a senior member rather than skipper again for the second half of the four-Test hostilities.
Here is the full Sport24 scorecard:
Kagiso Radaba: 9
If managed sensibly, seems set for lengthy, hugely stellar SA career. Scary thought for opponents that he hasn’t even fully developed physically yet. The languid athlete’s series culminated in fairytale 13/144 match haul at Centurion.
Tests: 3. Runs: 42 at 14.00. Wickets: 22 at 21.90.
Hashim Amla: 8.5
Normal, dominating service resumed – and then some – after he relieved himself of the captaincy at Cape Town. Top series run-scorer, not just for SA. Showed brave perseverance at Centurion crease, too, despite two separate, painful finger blows.
Tests: 4. Runs: 470 at 67.14.
Stephen Cook: 8
Belatedly summoned to Test scene, aged 33 ... and so quickly looked organised, orthodox and at ease. Fills a once-troublesome vacancy at the top, hopefully for two or three years ahead.
Tests: 1. Runs: 140 at 70.00.
Temba Bavuma: 7.5
Proper dynamo in a diminutive package: that’s what England bowlers gradually learnt as series progressed. Beautiful maiden ton at Newlands, and then two cool, important knocks on trot in last clash. Fuelled with self-conviction and sound technique, seems to have nailed down middle-order berth for foreseeable future.
Tests: 4. Runs: 248 at 49.60
Quinton de Kock: 6.5
Out swiftly and impulsively in Newlands runs-fest ... but then sparkling, unbeaten maiden Test century at Centurion to confirm potential long-term excitement factor at No 6 or 7. Looked very good again as wicketkeeper standing back; still some rough edges much nearer the stumps.
Tests: 2. Runs: 143 at 143.00.
Dean Elgar: 6.5
Receded a little at SuperSport Park to bring average down, but gritty left-hander can still look back on resilient series. Just looks the specialist part at front of order, and ton at Kingsmead while virtually all around him floundered will long be remembered.
Tests: 4. Runs: 284 at 47.33. Wickets: 2 at 56.00.
Dale Steyn: 6
What if ... and the answer blows in a futile wind. The strike legend got through just one completed bowling innings in the series before breaking down for the rest of it. In his short stint, he showed promising pace and earned four scalps. Once more ... what if?
Tests: 1. Runs: 19 at 9.50. Wickets: 4 at 20.00.
Morne Morkel: 6
Hikes up a half-point for Tuesday’s strong finish; began the fifth-day England rot with welcome, bristling aggression. Wish we’d seen a bit more, earlier in series. SA’s senior bowler by some way in series, but more steady than genuinely game-swaying.
Tests: 4. Runs: 24 at 6.00. Wickets: 15 at 29.73.
Dane Piedt: 5
Jury’s still out, perhaps. Would sometimes disappoint a tad in a first innings bowl, and then look promising in the second ... or vice versa at a different Test venue. Potential is there, however, and was unlucky victim of some missed catching or stumping chances as well. Bits of stubborn resistance with blade.
Tests: 3. Runs: 20 at 6.66. Wickets: 10 at 45.50.
AB de Villiers: 5
Very ordinary Test series, of course, by his extremely lofty standards. Still, you could say his figures are distorted by a freak three ducks on the trot (the cricketer’s lot, sometimes) at the back end of the combat. Hard to believe his assumption of the captaincy had a major effect on the sequence, and on that topic, kudos for the way he rallied his men as a unit at Centurion.
Tests: 4. Runs: 210 at 30.00.
Chris Morris: 4.5
He can bowl better than was demonstrated in successive opportunities at Newlands and then Wanderers. Just too many “four” balls, so his economy suffered. Fine pace at times, though ... and we did see welcome glimpses of his tail-end stroke-playing promise. Morris may be back some time.
Tests: 2. Runs: 98 at 32.66. Wickets: 4 at 63.25.
Dane Vilas: 4.5
Dramatically rushed to Jo’burg Test after the De Kock dog-walk mishap, Vilas kept wicket superbly. There were signs of batting fluency as well ... but he has also not yet managed to get going for a beefy score.
Tests: 1. Runs: 34 at 17.00.
Kyle Abbott: 4
Little in wickets column, alas. Frustrating series for a good bowler: hamstring issues frequently intervened. Didn’t do quite as well as hoped at home ground first up, but some fine pressure bowling -- often without luck -- at Centurion.
Tests: 2. Runs: 18 at 6.00. Wickets: 2 at 87.00.
Faf du Plessis 4
The ghosts of India paid a return visit, as the once productive Du Plessis withdrew again into a shot-less shell and paid a heavy price – axing for Centurion was near-inevitable, but hopefully acts as a shock treatment for the limited-overs stuff to follow.
Tests: 3. Runs: 127 at 25.40.
JP Duminy: 3.5
Stubbornly, still more questions than answers around Duminy’s Test career. Fallibility against off-spin goes on, and some crazy moments in stroke selection haven’t helped. Bowling has also gone backwards at five-day level. Future in the format is tenuous.
Tests: 2. Runs: 73 at 24.33. Wickets: 1 at 28.00
Stiaan van Zyl: 3.5
He’s not an opening batsman and now we pretty much know it. Almost unfailingly miserable time at crease against England. The odd searing, world-class boundary, though, to remind that he could challenge again in middle order. Medium-pace bowling continues to look a useful, under-rated supplement.
Tests: 3. Runs: 69 at 13.80. Wickets: 3 at 23.00.
Hardus Viljoen: 3
Fast ... but fatally loose on (fleeting) Test debut at Wanderers. Sunfoil Series standout may prove all the better up the road for tough lesson at top tier. Seems a very horses-for-courses quickie; not recommended for a Test flattie ...
Tests: 1. Runs: 26 at 26.00. Wickets: 1 at 94.00.
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