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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

  • Saeed 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 ...

  • David 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 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.

  • Ross 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.

  • Craig 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.

  • Kunal 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.

  • 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.

  • Dummy4 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!

  • Dummy4 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.

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