Cape Town – Tottering South Africa will emulate
their worst Test walloping from England in some 56 years if they crash again in
the dead-rubber fourth Test at Centurion from Friday.
Certainly in the post-isolation era, series
between the two countries have been renowned for their closeness – in nine preceding
this one, starting in 1994, only once has a series been decided by a margin of
more than one victory.
That was in the previous series for the
Basil D’Oliveira Trophy on English soil in 2012, when Graeme Smith’s charges
won a three-match series 2-0 to seize the ICC Test Championship mace from those
The present Proteas side have already given
up the mace – it will now be brandished by one of India or Australia at the
completion of the next annual cycle at the end of March – after being humiliated
at the Wanderers in three days last weekend to go 2-0 down with one to play.
If the Proteas were to earn a consolation
triumph at SuperSport Park, a 2-1 final score in England’s favour would at
least be much more in keeping with tight modern hostilities between the
But if they crash again – simultaneously
taking their run of Test matches without a victory to double figures – AB de
Villiers’s troops would earn the relative ignominy of becoming the first South
African team to lose by a 3-0 margin to England since 1960 abroad.
On that occasion Colin Cowdrey’s hosts clinched
all of the first three Tests of a five-match series, before the tourists under
Jackie McGlew – he died in 1998 – salvaged a morsel of pride with two draws.
One comfort is that the Proteas have
already staved off a particularly unpalatable clean sweep in the current series
by drawing the high-scoring New Year Test (the second) at Newlands.
The last time they suffered that indignity
on home soil (losing all three clashes with Ricky Ponting’s Australians in
2005/06) also remains the only time since unity that the Proteas have ever
But if this series does blow out to a 3-0
outcome for Alastair Cook’s side, it would also become South Africa’s worst
home defeat to England since as far back as 1913/14, when a five-Test series
was won 4-0 by the visitors.
*Even if the Proteas do achieve at
Centurion their first Test win since the home West Indies series last summer,
they will not be able to improve for the time being on their new, reduced
position of third on the ICC rankings ladder.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing