Biff & Hash best of Proteas

2012-08-29 11:46
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Graeme Smith (10)

Biff’s captaincy and especially his tenacious mental strength; and iron will not to let another opportunity slip, was always going to determine the outcome of the Basil D’Oliveira trophy-series. And, so it was: not once did he lose control of a situation; and not once did he surrender the Proteas’ dominance of the series and opposition. More important still: when the scenario presented itself he did not allow his team to “choke”. Whenever matters seemed to slip from their grasp Biff remained a fortress of strength: pensive at times; but cool, calm and firm throughout. Despite testing atmospheric conditions, which were mostly batter unfriendly, Biff’s bat was as broad as the proverbial house and secured scores of 131 – dnb – 52 – 52 – 23 – 37 for a total of 272 and an average of 54.40. Especially in the first two tests he did the classic opening job: stuck around, saw the excessive lateral movement of the new ball off, softened and roughed the ball up, saw the quicks off and laid a platform for the middle order. This is as close to a perfect contribution by an opening bat as is possible; and to go with that his captaincy was of the highest order and flawless.

Alviro Petersen (7.5)

Not a good start at the KIA Oval and no runs there. Then he made his contribution: 182 in the first innings at Headingley. Under difficult batting conditions he played the innings of his test career. He scored 16* in the second innings and 22 and 24 at Lords. Maybe a touch erratic but who can question 244 series runs at an average of 61.

Hashim Amla (10)

Call this man “The Wall”, his “Hashness” or whatever you like; he was the player of the series and an assassin with the bat. His 311* at the KIA Oval will forever be remembered; it is the highest score ever by a South African thus far. It was the innings that handed the Proteas control over the English and robbed their bowlers of their confidence; maybe even their dignity. At Headingley he was soft on the English with scores of 9 and 28. Then he stepped again up a gear and played another blinder and match winning innings of 121 at Lords. Yes, it is true: Lords was a team effort; but led by Hashim Amla. His century was the difference between a win and a loss. He piled up 482 runs in 5 innings and averaged a blistering 120.5! No bigger praise can be given to this icon than to state that he almost officially replaced Jacques Kallis as the colossus of the South African batting line-up.

Jacques Kallis (8.5)

Can he bat in England? The question was not entirely answered and the answered is probably a qualified yes. His 262 series runs at an average of 65.5 suggests so; but is primarily based on a brilliant 182* at the Oval. He was clearly the victim of a pathetic review decision in the first innings at Headingley when he was given out with his score on 19. Yes, the ball touched his glove but there was daylight between his hand and the bat. He felt the umpire’s call in the second innings, when he was dismissed for 27, was another error; but no television footage justifies his belief. At Lords he scored 3 and 31. He took 4 valuable wickets; the first being KP Pietersen with the English dominating procedures at the Oval on 251/2. That started the rot and caused England to slump to 385 all out. He clearly turned the first test in the Proteas’ favor when he got KP and then Ian Bell. Jacques probably proved that he can bat in England and he illustrated his value as a match winning all-rounder. He remains the most valuable cricketer in the world.

AB de Villiers (6.5)

By his own high standards AB had a fairly ordinary tour scoring only 161 at an average of 40.25. He did not bat at Headingley and after that he scored 47, 44, 27 and 43. Good runs but too little. His keeping was good without being spectacular; but England is a keeper’s nightmare.

Jacques Rudolph (4)

Rudolph made most of his first class runs in England and he is familiar with conditions there. As a result his series contribution of 141 at an average of 35.25 was disappointing. Jacques is a good batter and he needs one good innings to cement his place in the Proteas’ team. He was hoping to achieve it in England but did not bat at the Oval and after that he scored 19 – 69 – 42 – 11. His presence in the test team is definitely not safe and Australia will be a career decider. If he does not come off “down under” FAF du Plessis will take his place.

JP Duminy (6.5)

Batting at 7 with only the tail to follow can’t be the most secured and comfortable scenario; but if somebody is going to keep doing this for the Proteas, JP proved he is the man. JP scored 135 at an average of 67.5 and for the first time in years he got the tail to gather a swagger again. He was not required to bat at Headingley and after that he scored 48* – 0 – 61 – 26*. Surprisingly Smith did not expect Duminy to do serious bowling but he bagged one wicket. With limited opportunities JP did the best he could and he is clearly a team man who bats where he is required.

Vernon Philander (8.5)

This guy is an enigma; he can bat and bowl and he rocked the English. Batting at 8 he scored 115 immensely valuable runs at an average of 28.75. His services with the bat were not required at the Oval; then he scored 13 and 6 at Headingley. His contributions of 61 and 35 at Lords were instrumental in the Proteas’ victory. It took Philander two tests to get use to the Duke and English pitches. Mostly he swung the ball too much; i.e. he bowled too well for the batters, even the good ones, to get edge to ball. He took 2 wickets at the Oval and 3 at Headingley. Then he clicked into top gear and gave the English an exhibition of top class swing bowling at Lords. The five wickets he took in the second innings constituted a match winning performance. Lords defined Philander as a cricketer: 94 runs and 7 wickets.

Dale Steyn (9.5)

I always believed the respect and fear a quick extract from the opposition is reflected by the number of short balls they bowl to him. They want to intimidate and hurt him; get him of the park – that is what the short ball was intended to do to Dale Steyn. But, when the tough gets going Steyn enters. The truth is: Steyn was peppered with short, hostile bowling and he didn’t flinch. At Lords he came in as a night watchman for Rudolph and scored 9 from 65 balls. With Hashim he frustrated England’s bowlers for 12 agonising overs; part of it in the evening but most the next morning. Steyn contributed 38 runs to the series but that was not his primary role. He was asked to take wickets and that he did: 15. He took 2 and 5 at the Oval; a test the Proteas had to win and did. At Headingley he took 2 and 1; and at Lords 2 and 4. As expected he topped the bowling list with figures of 131-30-438-15. He averaged 29.2 per wicket and an economy rate of 3.34. The fact that Steyn did not take the new ball was a captain’s mistake and probably cost him 3 or 4 scalps.

Morne Morkel (7.5)

By his own high standards he didn’t perform as expected His bowling was often ordinary with a great spell here and there. His figures are 128.2-24-380-11 and he averaged 34.54 runs per wicket with a strike rate of 70. Not the best of tours; despite the advantage of a new ball.

Imran Tahir (5.5)

Keeping in mind that Graeme Swann found it difficult to take wickets Imran would feel that his tour stats is not that bad: 116.4-13-378-8; best innings bowling 63/3; best test bowling 124/4; average runs per wicket 47.25; economy rate 3.24; and strike-rate 87.5. Tahir encountered two major problems: he did not keep the runs down when it was needed and he struggled to get top order wickets. However, he did get turn and some inconsistent bounce. In a sense his level of success was neither here nor there; but enough to keep him in the team.

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