Adam Wakefield

Proteas reach the promised land

South Africa became the No 1 Test side in the world following their victory at Lords which gave the Proteas a 2-0 series victory over England. Vernon Philander, who has bowled far better on this tour than his figures would suggest, came to the fore in picking up five wickets in the second innings through high-quality seam bowling. That, added with his batting performances in both innings, proved to be the difference between the two sides, and merited his man of the match award.

Dale Steyn struggled again in the fourth innings of a Test, taking 1 for 61. In his last eight fourth innings efforts, Steyn has only taken five wickets at 77.80 runs a wicket, something which Gary Kirsten and the like will be looking at before South Africa tour Australia later this year. His efforts in the first innings however were excellent, picking up four wickets.

Kirsten, along with bowling coach Allan Donald and assistant coach Russell Domingo, have brought their own mix to the Proteas set up. With Smith’s declaration in the second Test at Leeds and his continued backing of Tahir on day five at Lords evident of the mental side of the game, which Kirsten had some influence on, with the former opening batsman admired during his time with India, who he won a World Cup with. Smith himself appears to be revitalised somewhat and hungrier than ever. He has again shown the way by leading from the front and his continued importance to the Proteas cannot be overstated.

The same could be said of Hashim Amla, whose hundred in the first innings at Lords laid the foundation for victory. Following from his epic 311 not out at the Oval, he has followed it up with another knock that sees the bearded wonder win over more fans. With VVS Laxman, the great Indian artisan, retiring this past week, Amla looks to be the Wristy One’s natural successor.

AB de Villiers did a solid job with the gloves, but the suspicion remains that he is a far better batsman when fielding in the covers than behind the stumps. A relatively quiet series for De Villiers with the bat, thought needs to be put into whether he should be pursued as a wicketkeeper.

Jacques Rudolph only showed glimpses of his talent. JP Duminy’s efforts at No 7 puts the pressure on Rudolph if South Africa decide for a specialist gloveman. Duminy played some mature knocks, and, but for poor shot selection, might have been able to score more runs at England’s disadvantage. Alviro Petersen also showed tremendous heart at Leeds, being the rock on which South Africa built their innings around with his hundred. He has confirmed his status as Smith’s opening partner for the foreseeable future.

Morne Morkel had a fine series, while Tahir took important wickets at important times. Still, he hasn’t quite become the match winner the Proteas were hoping for … as of yet. It remains to be seen if Tahir can run through a line-up when conditions are in his favour.

Jacques Kallis might have been disappointed with his batting (and perhaps the umpiring after his first innings dismissal) at Lords but his catching was outstanding, especially the grab that dismissed Jonathan Trott. His also picked up Stuart Broad with a bouncer, and as long as King Kallis continues to don the Proteas shirt, he will add value to the entire team, especially since he is one of the last great Test players left on the international scene since the 1990s.

South Africa deserved to win the series, and while the English failure to hold on to their No 1 ranking might receive more press, it was South Africa simply being a slightly better cricket team that proved the difference. Graeme Smith and his team should be extremely proud of their achievement at Lords.

Bring on the Australians.