Proteas 2016: beating Aussies, Mintgate and more
Any year which includes a series win against Australia is a good year – if it happens to be a test series on their soil it is an exceptional year.
BEATING AUSTRALIA AT HOME - AGAIN
If the victory was achieved without contributions of any significance from your three best players, it is both exceptional and slightly bewildering.
Popular and conventional wisdom suggested that, for the Proteas to have a chance of a third straight series win Down Under, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla – the only veterans of the 2008 and 2012 victories – would have to contribute in a massive way.
De Villiers, of course, missed the tour while Steyn joined him at home with a broken shoulder after bowling just 12 overs in Perth. Amla failed to score a single half century in his five innings.
Instead, the senior players raised their individual games, accepted responsibility and collectively produced a team performance far greater than the sum of their individual parts.
Centuries for JP Duminy and Dean Elgar during a 250-run partnership in the first test at Perth’s WACA ground transformed the game while Quinton de Kock’s ton in Hobart went a great deal of the way towards the series winning victory.
TOP 10 MOMENTS
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In turns, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott produced spells of near-unplayable seam bowling characterised by an unrelenting and persistent accuracy which had Australia’s top order gasping in vain for even a single run dozens of overs.
Temba Bavuma developed a cult following among the Australian crowds both for his doughty and important batting but more for his astonishing feats in the field which saw him run out David Warner twice.
By the time Faf du Plessis and Stephen Cook scored their centuries in the day/night test in Adelaide the series was decided and the media was more interested in what was in Faf’s mouth and what was coming out of it than the result.
Du Plessis fervently denied the charge of ball-tampering levelled against him by the ICC for shining the ball with sugary saliva and even went so far as to appeal against the guilty verdict handed down to him by match referee Andy Pycroft two days before the third test began.
It threatened to take the shine off an otherwise glorious tour and result for the Proteas but, fortunately, the quality of their cricket was glossy enough to be the abiding memory.
CONSOLATION AGAINST ENGLAND IN ODIs
The year began with another bitter-sweet moment as Amla unburdened himself from the test captaincy and immediately scored a double century against England as proof of how inhibiting he found the leadership and its chores.
The test ended in a monstrously high-scoring draw but the series was lost in the third test at the Wanderers when a third collapse saw the Proteas bowled out for just 83.
Consolation, of a sort, came in the fourth test at Centurion when Stephen Cook made an emotionally charged century on debut, Amla made 109 and 96 and Quinton de Kock a charming, unbeaten 129. They all played a distant role, of course, to Rabada whose match haul of 13-144 was the second best in South Africa’s history and led to a resounding win.
The five-match ODI series which followed looked like being lost as well when England leapt into a 2-0 lead and then posted 318 for eight in the third game at Centurion, but Amla and De Kock scored centuries and the home side galloped to victory by seven wickets with almost five overs to spare.
The fourth game, though, was surely lost with the Proteas on 210 for eight chasing 267 to win at over 10 runs per over at the Wanderers. Step forward Chris Morris with 62 from just 38 balls including three fours and four sixes – quite remarkable.
The decider at Newlands was almost an anti-climax in comparison although it looked interesting when the home side slipped to 22 for three in pursuit of a modest 237.
Captain De Villiers calmed things down and, fittingly, hit the winning runs to finish 101 not out. The Proteas beat England 2-0 in the T20 series which concluded a two-month tour.
TRIANGULAR FLOP & NEW ZEALAND BLUSH
It was five months before the next international fixture and it was not worth the wait as SA failed to reach the final of a randomly conceived ODI Triangular in the Caribbean featuring Australia and the West Indies.
The only highlight was the debut of Tabraiz Shamsi along with Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso on a slow pitch in Guyana where Australia were beaten in a dull, low scoring game.
In August it was the turn of CSA’s administrators to cover themselves in ignominy when the first of two tests against New Zealand in Durban was washed out after what was effectively a single, albeit heavy downpour. A relaid outfield failed to drain and the mud simply refused to dry.
Fortunately the laying of winter grass at Centurion for the second test was far more successful and Du Plessis once again led from the front with a grinding century in awkward batting conditions.
De Kock opened the batting as a late replacement for the injured Elgar and made 82 and 50 but it was the return of Steyn which created the headlines and his match haul of 8-94 which did most to win the match.