South Africa in England 2012 August 21, 2012

Few weak links as seniors stand tall

ESPNcricinfo assess the performance of the eleven players who took South Africa to the top of the world
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9

Hashim Amla
The leading run-scorer of the series, with 207 runs more than his nearest rival, and the only one with two centuries from the three matches, Amla's form has hit its peak. At The Oval, he broke the South African record for the highest individual Test score with a sublime, undefeated 311 in an innings of class, finesse and style. He wrote his name onto the Lord's honours board for a second time with a score, with a more contrasting knock of grit and grind. Like all the other batsmen in the match, Amla struggled to time and place his shots but unlike them, he survived and gave South Africa the base from which they could win the match, the series and rise to the top of the Test rankings.

8

Graeme Smith
He did not account for an England captain this time - at least, not yet - but he did take something of equal importance from the opposition: the No.1 Test ranking. His development as a leader was evident as he made two positive declarations at The Oval, a decision which saw South Africa take the series lead, and Headingley, where if weather had been better, a result could have been achieved. A hundred in his hundredth Test match was his best contribution with the bat and it was an innings that set up a massive victory but he also weighed in with two half-centuries. More telling than his individual efforts was his tactical management of the bowlers and it was evident that he had a plan for every England batsman. Smith is world cricket's longest serving Test captain, having broken Allan Border's record at Lord's, and after this triumph, few would argue that he is not also world's cricket best captain.

Dale Steyn
The world's best fast bowler showed why he is the world's best fast bowler. Steyn steamed in every time he had the ball - bar the first day of the series at The Oval. He swung it prodigiously and attacked from all angles. His five-for at the Oval won the match for South Africa and he finished the series as the overall leading wicket-taker. Steyn did not bowl with the new ball - a mystery to many - as part of a strategy to avoid having him bowl to left-handers and to save him for targeting Jonathan Trott, who he has dismissed seven times over the course of his career. Steyn also batted in nightwatchman capacity twice, one failing but the second time doing his job and more when, at Lord's, he shared in a stand with Amla that lasted 12.4 overs.

7.5

Vernon Philander
Five wickets in the second innings at Lord's will be what Philander is remembered for but that was not his only contribution to the series. Philander bowled well throughout, using the same skills that brought him to the fore in the seven Tests he had played before this tour. He maintained a line around off-stump, more than half his deliveries were on a good length and he got seam movement and occasional swing. The result was that he ended as the second highest wicket-taker, the lowest average and the lowest economy rate. Although his claim to being an allrounder was laughed at, Philander scored vital runs at Lord's, with an accomplished 61 in the first innings and a handy 35 in the second. As a measure of the significance of his batting, he scored more runs than England captain Andrew Strauss in the series.

Jacques Kallis
World cricket's premier allrounder ended what could well be his last tour of England on a high, having previously had a poor record in the country. Kallis averaged less than 30 before this tour but righted that with an undefeated 182 at the Oval which pushed it up to 35.33. His name will not appear on the Lord's honours board after a two umpiring decisions with which he was unhappy about ended his innings on both occasions. Kallis was used in his new impact role with the ball and took four wickets, including two in the Oval Test, of Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, which helped South Africa open England up. What the numbers could not tell was that Kallis, the senior most member of the squad also played an important part in the leadership of the side and the advice he provided to Smith is unquantifiable in its value. His catching was also outstanding.

7

Morne Morkel
He accounted for Strauss twice to bring his head-to-head record against him to nine times in 11 innings and found what Allan Donald called his "mongrel." Morkel was more aggressive than before, attacking the stumps, the batsmen and their heads. His bouncer will be remembered as one of the best weapons of the series. If not for his splatterings of inconsistency, which were at their worst at Lord's, he may have had better figures. He ended as South Africa's third-highest wicket-taker, behind Steyn and Philander, but encouragingly, did well with the new ball again since it was taken away from him after Philander's meteoric rise. No bunny with the bat, Morkel also ensured South Africa's tail was not hollow and provided resistance as far as he could.

6.5

Alviro Petersen
A hard-fought 182 made Petersen's series, after a lean run with the bat in the warm-up matches and the county season. Petersen's century in Wellington was forgotten when he made a duck at the Oval, sandwiched between the hundreds but he returned to see off a more determined England attack at Headingley. He held the South African line-up together there and was impressive in the way he continued his innings on the second morning, where others, like Kevin Pietersen, were out early. Injuries also played a part in Petersen's tour. A food niggle kept him out of the first warm-up and a hamstring strain out of the last one and problems in playing across the line returned at Lord's, where he was out cheaply in both innings.

JP Duminy
He made a case for himself to leapfrog Jacques Rudolph in the queue should South Africa want to field a batsmen less in future. Duminy's maturity was obvious as he batted with the lower order at Headingley and Lord's, showing patience and aptitude that many thought he had lost after he broke onto the scene against Australia in 2008. His 72-run partnership with Philander in the first innings at Lord's proved to be more significant than initially thought, given the margin of victory at the end. Duminy is an energetic outfielder and offers a few overs, which make an attractive option for future South African sides.

6

AB de Villiers
Thrown into a double role - of batting in the middle order and keeping wicket - at the start of the tour meant it was always going to be an experimental tour for de Villiers. In four innings his top score was 47 and his usually fast-paced belligerent batting style was shelved away. As a wicketkeeper, he averages significantly less with the bat, 30.33, than he does when not burdened with the task - 48.85. His glovework was solid, although he initially struggled with keeping to the legspinner at the Oval but he made few errors.

Imran Tahir
Another series has ended without Tahir having officially "arrived," on the international stage. This time he had more suitable surfaces to work with, particularly at Lord's, but there was still not a lot of turn on offer. Tahir made a crucial breakthrough in the second innings at The Oval, where he removed Matt Prior, wrapped the tail in the first innings at Headingley and created the opening at Lord's when he bowled Jonny Bairstow. He may be remembered most for his run out of Graeme Swann, an effort which involved throwing the ball at the stumps, rather than simply breaking them. Still guilty of using too many variations and giving away too many runs, Tahir has plenty to work on before South Africa's next tour.

5

Jacques Rudolph
The one forgettable member of the South African squad, Rudolph did not have the same impact as the rest of the team. His only innings of substance was the 68 he scored at Headingley, when he opened the batting in place of the injured Petersen. Rudolph looked uncomfortable against the short ball and offspin - he was Pietersen's victim twice at Headingley and he only faced two balls from him. If South Africa have one concern after this series, it will be the No.6 position, which Rudolph has so far failed to make his own.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Soso_killer on August 23, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    @Syborg21 exactly, South Africa have easily been the 2nd best team of the last 20 years, only behind to Australia. In fact when Australia were in their pomp, in 44 ODI's we played together both teams won 22 apiece. Thats how strong South Africa have been. No other team came even close.

  • TeamSelector on August 23, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    Whatever happened to Ashwell Prince ??? I thought he was an excellent #6 for the Saffers, until he lost his place due to injury. Wouldn't mind bringing him back in place of Rudolph. Also, I am not entirely impressed with Tahir either ...

  • SyBorgg71 on August 23, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    @Soso_killer...I'll think you'll find that SA were #1 in the test rankings back in 2003.

  • Soso_killer on August 22, 2012, 22:52 GMT

    @Ravi_hari what are you on about? "This is the first time SA are ranked number 1 in any format" before the 2007 world cup we were world no.1 in ODIs, remember the 438 game? We also became world no.1 in ODI's when we defeated Australia 4-0 in their backyard 2008, stayed there for 12 months in fact. We were no.1 for 4 months in test cricket as well in 2009. Your knowledge of cricket is very poor.

  • Nuxxy on August 22, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    I understand now why Quinton de Kock wasn't in the team - he was a vital part of the U19 team. But after the U19 World Cup, I don't really see the point of putting in older players. He is a decent keeper who will get a lot better with experience, and is a naturally attacking batsman well suited to the number 6/7 position. Some people doubt his keeping, but he has done well in Oz to both spin and pace.

  • Unifex on August 22, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    Hashim Alma's style at time reminds me of the great, just-retired VVS LAxman, in his poise and his grace. Oh, and his ability to hit enormous scores.

  • KunzMan on August 22, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Its rather better to have Faf du Plessis in for Rudolph and Tsotsobe in for Tahir for Australia. Faf and JP should roll the arm over wherever required. They should practice a bit more, especially Faf to go round the wicket and into the rough to do a containing job. I don't foresee any actualy "attacking" spinner who can take wickets coming from SA. Else recall Peterson for Tahir will make more sense.

  • ravi_hari on August 22, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    The success of a team always depends on how well the seniors gel with the juniors. Aussies had done this, India has done it and now SA have emulated the same. If the big 4 batsmen ensured India's rise to No.1, 3 batsmen and 1 bowler ensured that SA get the coveted spot. This is the first time SA have ever reached to the top in any format. Hope this will culminate in a World Cup victory which eluded them so far. However, SA should guard themselves against the imminent fall. Once the seniors start hanging their shoes, the downfall begins. Aussies, Indians have seen this happen. SA should plan well to arrest this trend. Another coincidence between SA and India is Kirsten. Hope SA retains him for atleast 3 to 4 years more so that he will not take away the No.1 slot with him when he quits. Kudos Smith and your team. You deserved to be on top. Having worked very hard to achieve this now is the time to tell the world that you will not leave it as easily as India and England did. Goodluck SA.

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    For Morne Morkel and his 'no balls' : I just cannot believe how fast bowlers at international level can have a problem with 'no balls'. Overcoming this is as easy as ABC! You mark out your 'run up' allowing for the 'run up' required for the bouncer. When running in, do not focus on the batsman. Focus solely on the bowling crease. In your delivery stride, lift your head, aim at the target on the pitch during which you'll have a fixed view of the batsman. Try it and 'no balls' will be history. We won't have a Mark Pryor fiasco ever again. This I promise Morkel and all aspiring fast bowlers!

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:37 GMT

    @captmeanster. Haha, it's fairly easy to be a arm chair critic so go easy with passing judgements buddy. Anyway, I think Vernon deserves 8. He may have not taken many wickets in this series but he still did a commendable job. Also, in this series fast bowlers mostly dominated. Swann took only 4 wickets at an average of 77, while Tahir took 8 wickets at an average of 47. So, Tahir still did a reasonable job but he needs to keep improving in future. Kudos to SA.

  • Soso_killer on August 23, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    @Syborg21 exactly, South Africa have easily been the 2nd best team of the last 20 years, only behind to Australia. In fact when Australia were in their pomp, in 44 ODI's we played together both teams won 22 apiece. Thats how strong South Africa have been. No other team came even close.

  • TeamSelector on August 23, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    Whatever happened to Ashwell Prince ??? I thought he was an excellent #6 for the Saffers, until he lost his place due to injury. Wouldn't mind bringing him back in place of Rudolph. Also, I am not entirely impressed with Tahir either ...

  • SyBorgg71 on August 23, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    @Soso_killer...I'll think you'll find that SA were #1 in the test rankings back in 2003.

  • Soso_killer on August 22, 2012, 22:52 GMT

    @Ravi_hari what are you on about? "This is the first time SA are ranked number 1 in any format" before the 2007 world cup we were world no.1 in ODIs, remember the 438 game? We also became world no.1 in ODI's when we defeated Australia 4-0 in their backyard 2008, stayed there for 12 months in fact. We were no.1 for 4 months in test cricket as well in 2009. Your knowledge of cricket is very poor.

  • Nuxxy on August 22, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    I understand now why Quinton de Kock wasn't in the team - he was a vital part of the U19 team. But after the U19 World Cup, I don't really see the point of putting in older players. He is a decent keeper who will get a lot better with experience, and is a naturally attacking batsman well suited to the number 6/7 position. Some people doubt his keeping, but he has done well in Oz to both spin and pace.

  • Unifex on August 22, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    Hashim Alma's style at time reminds me of the great, just-retired VVS LAxman, in his poise and his grace. Oh, and his ability to hit enormous scores.

  • KunzMan on August 22, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Its rather better to have Faf du Plessis in for Rudolph and Tsotsobe in for Tahir for Australia. Faf and JP should roll the arm over wherever required. They should practice a bit more, especially Faf to go round the wicket and into the rough to do a containing job. I don't foresee any actualy "attacking" spinner who can take wickets coming from SA. Else recall Peterson for Tahir will make more sense.

  • ravi_hari on August 22, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    The success of a team always depends on how well the seniors gel with the juniors. Aussies had done this, India has done it and now SA have emulated the same. If the big 4 batsmen ensured India's rise to No.1, 3 batsmen and 1 bowler ensured that SA get the coveted spot. This is the first time SA have ever reached to the top in any format. Hope this will culminate in a World Cup victory which eluded them so far. However, SA should guard themselves against the imminent fall. Once the seniors start hanging their shoes, the downfall begins. Aussies, Indians have seen this happen. SA should plan well to arrest this trend. Another coincidence between SA and India is Kirsten. Hope SA retains him for atleast 3 to 4 years more so that he will not take away the No.1 slot with him when he quits. Kudos Smith and your team. You deserved to be on top. Having worked very hard to achieve this now is the time to tell the world that you will not leave it as easily as India and England did. Goodluck SA.

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    For Morne Morkel and his 'no balls' : I just cannot believe how fast bowlers at international level can have a problem with 'no balls'. Overcoming this is as easy as ABC! You mark out your 'run up' allowing for the 'run up' required for the bouncer. When running in, do not focus on the batsman. Focus solely on the bowling crease. In your delivery stride, lift your head, aim at the target on the pitch during which you'll have a fixed view of the batsman. Try it and 'no balls' will be history. We won't have a Mark Pryor fiasco ever again. This I promise Morkel and all aspiring fast bowlers!

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:37 GMT

    @captmeanster. Haha, it's fairly easy to be a arm chair critic so go easy with passing judgements buddy. Anyway, I think Vernon deserves 8. He may have not taken many wickets in this series but he still did a commendable job. Also, in this series fast bowlers mostly dominated. Swann took only 4 wickets at an average of 77, while Tahir took 8 wickets at an average of 47. So, Tahir still did a reasonable job but he needs to keep improving in future. Kudos to SA.

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:36 GMT

    I find Cpt Meanster's criticism of IMRAN TAHIR mean and unjustified! Small adjustments are required by Tahir. 1st'ly his 'run up' when going around the wicket is too acute. He therefore does not get into the position ideal for a 'leggie'. 2nd'ly, he does not get enough 'rip' (ball revolutions) to add to his effectiveness. This he can achieve by using a true '3 finger' grip. These two minor adjustments will reult in him getting more dip ih his flight. 3rd'ly, he can bowl with more 'chest on' and bringing his bowling arm more around as from bowling with a high up enabling his googly to be more effective and to bring the ripper into his repertoire. These changes won't be nececessary for Tahir to be effective 'out f the rough' only and for him to consistently go 'around the wicket'.

  • on August 22, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    I don't agree with this ranking. Vermon did really well, even if he did not take many wickets. He put a lot of pressure on the opposition batsman's in various stages of the series. Petersen also did well when it mattered. Duminy also performed well in tough situations. Lastly, if you compare the stats, Tahir ended up taking more wickets than England spinners.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 21, 2012, 23:38 GMT

    Sorry to say this but Imran Tahir is a DISGRACE to the art of leg spin bowling. He shouldn't even play international cricket. He's mediocre and Geoffrey Boycott was right in calling him "ordinary". Barring that, SA have a potent and skilled test team. They have all the right ingredients to upstage any team around the world. However, the spin bowling department could be their biggest problem if and when they tour the subcontinent. SA managed to draw the series twice in India with Paul Harris as their main spinner. But he wasn't an effective spinner by any means. Tahir should improve, otherwise I cannot see him play for SA in the long run. SA cannot keep winning purely on the backs of their pace bowlers. There will be breakdowns from time to time. A variety in bowling options will be needed; something SA never had throughout their international history. Still, a fabulous performance by them and rightly deserved to become world no.1.

  • __PK on August 21, 2012, 21:58 GMT

    I love these ratings articles, especially because they're so subjective, but I really think they need to be recallibrated. If a player does his job, no more, no less (eg top 6 batsman averages 45 to 50) he should get 5/10. If a player gets more than 5 he should consider himself safe for the next test (barring outstanding performances from outside the team) and if he gets under 5 he should be looking over his shoulder (barring an outstanding track record or a lack of suitable replacements). 5/10 should be a pass mark.

  • Andre2 on August 21, 2012, 21:56 GMT

    I am not at all convinced by Imran Tahir. Who are the next spin bowlers for the Proteas ?

  • JG2704 on August 21, 2012, 21:02 GMT

    Philander certainly deserves more than 7.5. In the crucial final test he was the main reason why SA weren't bowled out for less than 250 (possibly 200) in the 1st inns and possibly made sure that SA's tail wagged again in the 2nd inns. For a bowler his batting was worth it's weight in gold. Add to that him removing the top order in the crucial 2nd inns...

  • on August 21, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    I agree that focusing on Steyn's work as nightwatchman is rather pointless. He was adequate, at best. However, as a bowler he was outstanding, as usual, and quite unlucky not to have picked up many more wickets. I find it amazing that he still managed to average 5 wickets per Test despite being first change, bowling on unhelpful wickets, and not having luck go his way at all, really. It's only a matter of time before we see another Steyn classic. And let's not forget that Philander's success has come on the back of the phenomenal pressure Steyn exerts at the other end - these two are perfect in tandem, as Philander's naggingly accurate line and length exploit the batsman's lapses in concentration when relaxing after having faced Steyn's fire and venom. To have Morkel around as well... yeah, this team is blessed. As a South African fan I'm VERY excited for the next couple of years. Bring on Oz!

  • Vleis on August 21, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    Some of these ratings are not correct. JP Duminy and Alviro Petersen had series averages of 61 and 67.5 respectively against the #1 team in the world on their home turf. If that is only worth a 6.5 then what does that say about Tendulkar's career given that he averages in the 50's - is he worth a 5.5 of 6? Philander could be slightly higher at 8, while Steyn and Smith could drop to 7.5 and Tahir could drop to 5.5.

  • Shafaet_001 on August 21, 2012, 18:35 GMT

    7.5 doesn't do justice to philandar.

  • Crass on August 21, 2012, 18:20 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK Steyn played 29 deliveries in the morning session and more importantly hung around with Amla for 12.4 overs. Anyways, I dont think his ratings need to be defended by this innings. He proved that he is the best bowler on the planet right now.

  • Nadeem1976 on August 21, 2012, 18:13 GMT

    Hashim Amla deserve 10 out of 10. His first innings demoralize English bowlers and his last innings won the series for SA what more you want from a batsman in English conditions.

  • SurlyCynic on August 21, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    I would also choose Duminy ahead of Rudolph, but I think this author understates his innings at Headingly where he opened (with the team in disarray) and made a crucial 68 in difficult conditions which took the match out of England's reach. I feel this author is always keen to attack Rudolph but defends JP and Alviro when they fail. And AB averages more than 50 when not keeping, think you're quoting his overall average there.

  • djdrastic on August 21, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    Most likely Jacques Rudolph's last appearance for the Proteas.I like the guy a lot but there are so many young gifted South African middle order players on the scene now , that Rudolphs selection is now starting to look questionable.

  • on August 21, 2012, 16:20 GMT

    Professional performance by real professional. Outstanding and deserved series win. Disappointment though for me was Imran Tahir. A lot was expected of him being a wrist spinner which South Africa always lacked and in his 10 test matches, he hadn't given a single match winning performace with the ball.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 21, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    Steyn coming in as nightwatchman and facing only 9 of 23 deliveries isn't doing a good job, or am I getting the whole point of nightwatchman wrong? 7.5 is rather mean for Philander; I would say 8 - 8.5 as he was so economical throughout and unlucky at times because SA refused to bring their slips closer for him. Kallis also too low, but it's hard to grade him as he was victim to shocking umpiring. Overall, a really good, balanced showing by SA and they really deserved to win. The England scores on the other hand... I dread to think about...

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  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 21, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    Steyn coming in as nightwatchman and facing only 9 of 23 deliveries isn't doing a good job, or am I getting the whole point of nightwatchman wrong? 7.5 is rather mean for Philander; I would say 8 - 8.5 as he was so economical throughout and unlucky at times because SA refused to bring their slips closer for him. Kallis also too low, but it's hard to grade him as he was victim to shocking umpiring. Overall, a really good, balanced showing by SA and they really deserved to win. The England scores on the other hand... I dread to think about...

  • on August 21, 2012, 16:20 GMT

    Professional performance by real professional. Outstanding and deserved series win. Disappointment though for me was Imran Tahir. A lot was expected of him being a wrist spinner which South Africa always lacked and in his 10 test matches, he hadn't given a single match winning performace with the ball.

  • djdrastic on August 21, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    Most likely Jacques Rudolph's last appearance for the Proteas.I like the guy a lot but there are so many young gifted South African middle order players on the scene now , that Rudolphs selection is now starting to look questionable.

  • SurlyCynic on August 21, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    I would also choose Duminy ahead of Rudolph, but I think this author understates his innings at Headingly where he opened (with the team in disarray) and made a crucial 68 in difficult conditions which took the match out of England's reach. I feel this author is always keen to attack Rudolph but defends JP and Alviro when they fail. And AB averages more than 50 when not keeping, think you're quoting his overall average there.

  • Nadeem1976 on August 21, 2012, 18:13 GMT

    Hashim Amla deserve 10 out of 10. His first innings demoralize English bowlers and his last innings won the series for SA what more you want from a batsman in English conditions.

  • Crass on August 21, 2012, 18:20 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK Steyn played 29 deliveries in the morning session and more importantly hung around with Amla for 12.4 overs. Anyways, I dont think his ratings need to be defended by this innings. He proved that he is the best bowler on the planet right now.

  • Shafaet_001 on August 21, 2012, 18:35 GMT

    7.5 doesn't do justice to philandar.

  • Vleis on August 21, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    Some of these ratings are not correct. JP Duminy and Alviro Petersen had series averages of 61 and 67.5 respectively against the #1 team in the world on their home turf. If that is only worth a 6.5 then what does that say about Tendulkar's career given that he averages in the 50's - is he worth a 5.5 of 6? Philander could be slightly higher at 8, while Steyn and Smith could drop to 7.5 and Tahir could drop to 5.5.

  • on August 21, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    I agree that focusing on Steyn's work as nightwatchman is rather pointless. He was adequate, at best. However, as a bowler he was outstanding, as usual, and quite unlucky not to have picked up many more wickets. I find it amazing that he still managed to average 5 wickets per Test despite being first change, bowling on unhelpful wickets, and not having luck go his way at all, really. It's only a matter of time before we see another Steyn classic. And let's not forget that Philander's success has come on the back of the phenomenal pressure Steyn exerts at the other end - these two are perfect in tandem, as Philander's naggingly accurate line and length exploit the batsman's lapses in concentration when relaxing after having faced Steyn's fire and venom. To have Morkel around as well... yeah, this team is blessed. As a South African fan I'm VERY excited for the next couple of years. Bring on Oz!

  • JG2704 on August 21, 2012, 21:02 GMT

    Philander certainly deserves more than 7.5. In the crucial final test he was the main reason why SA weren't bowled out for less than 250 (possibly 200) in the 1st inns and possibly made sure that SA's tail wagged again in the 2nd inns. For a bowler his batting was worth it's weight in gold. Add to that him removing the top order in the crucial 2nd inns...