17 December 2013
South Africa continued to rule the roost in test cricket in 2013 and they did so emphatically. The Proteas also recorded their 100th test victory since the Rainbow Nation was readmitted to international cricket in 1992 after 22 years of isolation.
The Proteas’ test record abroad has not come close to being matched in recent years, but given the opportunity to play in front of their own fans at home early in the year, they turned up the heat on New Zealand and Pakistan and both teams wilted under the pressure.
With a series of imperious performances, they won every test played in South Africa, dominating both touring teams in victories that included some outstanding individual performances.
New Zealand suffered two innings defeats in a two-test series mismatch, with the first test ending on the third day and the second test on the fourth day. Pakistan were beaten by an innings, by four wickets and by 211 runs.
Both teams were dismissed for less than 50 in the first innings of the first tests against the Proteas, making it three times in just over a year that South Africa’s opposition had failed to reach that mark, following Australia’s dismal 47 all out at Newlands in November 2011.
Lowest score in 39 years
New Zealand’s 45 all out at Newlands was the lowest test score in 39 years. Vernon Philander knocked over 5 for 7, Morne Morkel picked up 3 for 14, and Dale Steyn 2 for 18.
At The Wanderers, Pakistan managed only 49 all out, their lowest ever test total, as Dale Steyn captured an eye-catching 6 for 8. Only Vernon Philander, with his 5 for 7 against New Zealand, had conceded fewer run in taking a five-for for South Africa in test history.
Other players starred too: Kyle Abbott, playing in his debut test in Centurion, took an astonishing 7 for 29, as Pakistan fell for 156 in their first innings of the third test. They never recovered as South Africa claimed victory by an innings and 18 runs.
Robin Petersen picked up the man of the match award in the second test win by scoring 84 in South Africa’s first innings to go with five wickets in the match.
On the batting front, the usual suspects, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, made their mark. Nobody played more than two innings against New Zealand, but Dean Elgar, Amla, Faf du Plessis and Alviro Petersen all scored centuries.
De Villiers scored two centuries and averaged 88 against the Pakistanis, while Amla missed out on a century, but still averaged 71.50.
In the latter half of the year, after Russell Domingo took over the coaching reins from Gary Kirsten, and more than six months without any international action, the Proteas suffered a surprising seven-wicket loss to Pakistan in the UAE, but having found their feet again the South African team was ruthless in levelling the series by thrashing Pakistan by an innings and 92 runs in the second test – their fourth win by an innings in seven tests in 2013.
This time around, it was Imran Tahir, on his recall to the side, who made a difference, snaring 5 for 32 as Pakistan managed only 99 all out in their first innings.
Graeme Smith, returning from ankle surgery, then made 234, his fourth test double- century and moved past Inzamam ul-Haq, Javed Miandad and Graham Gooch on the list of all-time test run scorers to over 9 000 runs, good for 12th place on the list.
Smith and AB de Villiers, who made 164, shared a partnership of 338 runs to help the Proteas to 517 all out. There was no coming back from a 418 run deficit for Pakistan and South Africa went on to another one-sided victory.
The Proteas’ dominance of test cricket was reflected in the International Cricket Council’s test rankings, with a very healthy gap between South Africa and the other nations at the top of the standings. South Africa’s dominance of the individual rankings also stood out.
Number one and number two
Dale Steyn, the number one ranked test bowler in the world since 2008, continued to shine and maintained his number one position with more than 900 points, putting him among the highest ranked bowlers of all time. Vernon Philander occupied second place in the rankings, narrowly behind Steyn on 899 points, just two points down on his career-high.
AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla were ranked one and two in the batting rankings, with De Villiers reaching a career-best 909 points and Amla on 898, not far off his high of 907.
With Morne Morkel in 13th place among bowlers, Graeme Smith at eight and Jacques Kallis at 13th among batsmen, the Proteas displayed far greater elite depth than any other test playing nation.
Test Team of the Year
It thus came as little surprise when Steyn, Philander, De Villiers and Amla were named in the ICC’s Test Team of the Year in early December. Steyn was named in the team for a sixth time in succession, while it was De Villiers’ fifth time running in the team, Amla’s fourth, and the second in a row for Philander. De Villiers and Amla also cracked the nod in the ICC’s ODI team of the Year.
Amla starred at the South African Cricket Awards where he was named the CSA Cricketer of the Year, the Sunfoil Test Cricketer of the Year and the South African Fan’s Player of the Year. He also received the KFC “So Good” award for his unbeaten 311 against England in 2012
While the Proteas shone in tests, their form in one-day internationals was less impressive. After brushing New Zealand aside in the test series, the Black Caps scored a shock 2-1 series victory in the ODIs.
Pakistan pushed South Africa all the way in a five-match series before being edged 3-2.
Later in the year, in the UAE, the Proteas appeared to have found their way, beating the Pakistanis 4-1, but a series immediately after that in South Africa went the way of Pakistan by two matches to one.
Why was a team so dominant in the test arena so shaky in the 50 overs a side game? Perhaps the answer lies in the selection of the side. With some of the top test stars being rested or, as in the case of Vernon Philander, not considered at all until late in the year. Minus those top talents, South Africa’s results were patchy.
Given a chance to play in three matches late in the year, Philander showed what the team misses out on when leading players are omitted. He returned figures of 2 for 23 in eight overs, 1 for 37 in 10 and 3 for 26 in 10.
At the same time, Dale Steyn was given more of a run in the ODI game and responded with some devastating returns against Pakistan, including 6 for 39 in Port Elizabeth and 5 for 25 in Abu Dhabi.
The Proteas’ biggest concern, though, was not the team’s bowling, but its batting, with Amla and De Villiers carrying too much of the load and not enough consistency from the rest, even from Amla.
However, late in the year, the selectors loaded up the big guns and threw them into a series against India, ranked number one in the world. The result? Victories by 141 and 134 runs, with the third ODI rained out.
Highlighting the series was the performance of 20-year-old opening batsmen Quinton de Kock, who became only the fifth batsmen to score centuries in three consecutive one-day internationals.
He joined a small list of only four other players, including two South Africans, who have achieved the feat: Saeed Anwar, Zaheer Abbas, AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs. It also left De Kock ranked 14th in the ODI batting rankings, having scored four centuries in only 16 innings.
South Africa’s T20 international results were better, with the Proteas beating New Zealand 2-1 and Pakistan 2-0 in the UAE, while the Pakistanis won 1-0 in South Africa.
On the domestic scene, the Cape Cobras lifted the Sunfoil Series title, ending the four-day competition on a high note with a 10-wicket thrashing of the Knights.
The Cobras also made the final of the Momentum One Day Cup, but their showdown with the Titans was rained out, leading to the teams sharing the trophy.
The Ram Slam T20 title went the way of the Lions, who defeated the Titans by a comfortable 30 runs in the final at The Wanderers.
In amateur competition, Gauteng claimed the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Three-Day Provincial competition, while Border walked away with the CSA Provincial One-Day Competition honours, and Free State won the CSA Provincial Pro 20 Competition.
The South African national women’s team made it into the Super Six stage of the Women’s World Cup, but found the going tough once there. However, prior to the World Cup, they showed their ability in drawing 2-2 with the West Indies, who went on to top the Super Six standings at the World Cup.
In September, the South African women whitewashed Bangladesh 3-0 in an ODI series and 3-0 in a T20 series.
Western Province captured the CSA Women’s Provincial One-day Competition.