Proteas win series, secure No. 1 ranking

19 February 2013

With a four-wicket victory over Pakistan inside four days at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday, the Proteas clinched a test series victory. It was their fifth win in a row and their sixth series triumph in succession.

The victory means South Africa will be number one on the Reliance ICC Test Championship table on the 1 April cut-off date. With that position comes a reward of $450 000 (R4.01-million), which is considerably higher than the $175 000 that was up for grabs last year.

Neither England nor Australia, ranked second and third in the standings, and losers at home to the Proteas in 2012, will be able to catch Graeme Smith and company, regardless of their results in test series against New Zealand and India respectively.

Only one point separates England and Australia, but there’s a big money difference between second and third, with second place picking up $350 000 and third $250 000. In rand terms, that’s a difference of R890 000.

Bowling rankings

After taking 9 for 99 in the win in Cape Town, Vernon Philander has taken his test bowling ranking to a career high of 889 points, only 18 points behind world number one Dale Steyn.

It opens up the possibility of two players from the same team achieving the elite 900-point mark at the same time. To put that astounding achievement in context, since the first test match was played in 1877, 136 years ago, only 20 players have managed to reach 900 points.

Morne Morkel, who suffered an injury after sending down only three overs in the second innings at Newlands, is in ninth place in the bowling rankings, giving South Africa three players in the top 10. England and Australia have two players on that list. Therefore, there appears to be a very important correlation between a team’s bowling ability and its overall performance.

Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, who picked up 10 for 147 in the match, is up to a career best ranking of 847 points. He occupies third place in the rankings.

Batting rankings

Among batsman, Hashim Amla tops the test batting rankings with 893 points after innings of 25 and 58. AB de Villiers is in fourth place on a career high 851 points after scoring 61 and 36. Jacques Kallis, who the ICC admitted should not have been given out in the first innings, is in eighth place, while captain Graeme Smith occupies 13th spot.

Younis Khan, after innings of 111 and 14, is in ninth place. Azhar Ali (4 and 65) is in 11th position, Misbah ul-Haq (0 and 44) in 12th, and Asad Shafiq in 16th, at a career high 680 points, after knocks of 111 and 19.

The man of the match award in Cape Town, though, went the way of a man ranked 100th among batsmen and 57th among bowlers, Robin Peterson.

Crucial innings

He played a crucial innings of 84, his highest in a test, after South Africa had slumped to 164 for 6 in their first innings. As the last man out, he was at the crease while the Proteas added a further 162 runs to take their innings’ total to 326 all out, just 12 runs shy of Pakistan’s 338 all out.

Peterson also picked up 2 for 94 and 3 for 73 with the ball to finish the match with five wickets.

What his performance underlined is the ability of all players in the South African team to contribute, much as Faf du Plessis made a massive contribution when he first came into the team after an injury to JP Duminy in Australia.

Belief and performance

Where coach Gary Kirsten has excelled is getting the players to believe that they all have a contribution to make. From that belief, top performances have followed.

Happily, for the South African players and fans, they have excelled under pressure. In the past, they often folded and were labelled “chokers”. That tag can no longer be applied, for the current team has been at its best when under pressure. Peterson was the latest to demonstrate that.

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