Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14

South Africa pass test of character

The manner in which South Africa responded to the Test defeat in Abu Dhabi has shown that the unit has character, and gave them fresh options going ahead

Firdose Moonda in Dubai

October 27, 2013

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Imran Tahir picked up eight wickets in the match, Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Dubai, 4th day, October 26, 2013
After delivering the most expensive wicketless figures in Tests last year, Tahir produced a match-winning eight-wicket haul © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Imran Tahir
Teams: South Africa

The number of times members of the South African squad talk about "character" is enough to cast a series of movies. They have a full range. Tough characters, hard-working characters, and in the words of Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers, great characters as well.

Film heroes usually follow a fairly predictable script. They start off as likable but naive with big dreams, then they face what seems insurmountable obstacles along the way, then they develop by overcoming those, and in the end they triumph. The South African squad have already been through this cycle many times before.

But the thing about cycles is that they have no end. So, even when one has remained in the same position for some time, at some point the journey starts again. South Africa were reminded of that when they lost in Abu Dhabi. It was their first Test defeat since December 2011, and their first away from home in more than three years. It was also one of their worst defeats - perhaps not in terms of numbers - but because of the manner in which they were beaten.

The Pakistan attack out-thought them, and their own bowlers were not up to the task to operate as shrewdly. It was a defeat which highlighted how serious lack of preparation can be, and it made some believe they would suffer the same fate as the previous No.1 side, England, did in conditions that have become a new final frontier for Test cricket. But for those who have kept a close eye on them since they began ascending the rankings about three years ago, it was not a defeat which ruled them out of the series.

South Africa are simply too good a side to not learn from their mistakes and be able to rectify them quickly. By the second innings in Abu Dhabi, they were already hitting better lengths, and by the time Dubai came, the bowlers had found top gear again. The hastiness and poor shot selection that affected their batsmen in the first match was removed from their game in the second with a display of better temperament, patience and resilience. With the errors erased, they dominated again.

That takes talent, but it also takes character, which only grows stronger with every success. To build character from a failing is an even better achievement and one South Africa have not had to deal with much in the recent past. They have won six series on the trot before this one so the sting of defeat was a faded memory for all but one player who hit a personal low in the time South Africa were on the up.

Imran Tahir is the only member of the Test squad to have been dropped and recalled in the last year. The way he performed in Adelaide last November could have ruled any cricketer out of the game, much less the international circuit, because it tore apart his reputation. But Tahir was managed in a way that allowed him to believe his career was not over. He was cocooned in what his franchise coach, Geoffrey Toyana, told ESPNcricinfo was nothing more complicated than "love" and coaxed him back to form.

When he was recalled to replace Robin Peterson, it was because South Africa knew they needed a more penetrative spinner, given the conditions. The expectation was on him to perform and provide the impact he had been searching for in his previous 11 showings. He also wanted to be Smith's go-to man. On the first surface Tahir has played on that has offered something, he delivered, finding turn and bounce, and using his googly to good effect.

His five-wicket return in the first innings, and the overall match haul of eight scalps, proved he has a future on the biggest stage. In turn repaying the faith South Africa have showed in him. "It was great to see him bowl so well," Smith said. "He showed immense character to bounce back, and it showed we have a group of players that can respond. We all enjoyed his success. It was a testament to him as a person."

It also gives South Africa another option going forward as they juggle between Peterson and him. Peterson will ultimately be tasked with doing a holding job, while Tahir will perhaps be saved for the subcontinent when they require an attacking bowler. That could be the biggest gain South Africa will make from this trip because they now know Tahir is someone they can turn to, rather than being a continued gamble.

They would never have been able to glean that had they not lost in Abu Dhabi and felt forced to make a change for what became a must-win game in Dubai. That it happened and they responded by making the right selection instead of sticking with Peterson as a sentimental choice is proof of the development of their character as a unit.

They did not finish with the happily ever after tag they may have wanted in terms of a series win, but they've definitely posted an interesting 'to be continued' for when the next tour to Asia, in India, occurs in two years' time.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by   on (October 30, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

People must realize it that teams from Australia, England and South Africa have performed much better on the whole in the sub continent than teams from the sub continent have in Australia, England and South Africa. It is noy my opinion its fact.

These comments always amuses me

Posted by Jaybass32 on (October 29, 2013, 13:19 GMT)

well written article about the best side in the world... they will remain the best for at least two more years. MARK MY WORDS!!!

Posted by Un_Citoyen_Indien on (October 29, 2013, 12:10 GMT)

@ Greatest Game: Arqam Kham is right, the hapless Imran Tahir will be taken to the cleaners by Indian batsmen who, true to their pedigree, are absolute masters of playing spin (just ask a certain Mr. Warne). Murali, Saeed Ajmal, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath, Shahid Afridi, Nathan Lyon are just some examples of high class spinners who have been negotiated well by capable Indian batsmen.

With regards to the current series against the Aussies, India have played exceedingly well and have even posted a record 360 for 1 in 43 overs just a week ago and unfortunately, have been robbed of 2 wins by absolutely terrible weather in the Eastern parts caused due to Cyclone Phailin. With two games still to go, India can be expected to win the ongoing series. They are of course the #1 ranked side.

Contrast this with where South Africa are in ODIs (the only format that most Asians really care about). Have you forgotten India's resounding victory over the Africans in the Champions Trophy in England?

Posted by   on (October 29, 2013, 6:51 GMT)

He was shining the ball on his trousers. there was nothing wrong with the ball but the umpires felt obligated to change it after the 3rd official told them to check it. The outcome of the hearing the officials stated that it was accidental with no malice intended. The ball was changed immediately when it happened. Wickets up to that point was taken with the new ball. Now explain to me how did the 'ball tampering' impact on the game when not 1 delivery was sent down with the tampered ball. Pakistan was not good enough and the only reason they won the first test is because of SA not playing for such a long time and not picking Tahir in the first test. Pakistan team is weak.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (October 29, 2013, 2:52 GMT)

@ Fami Khan wrote " Remember 1 thing... In ODI,s & T20 Afridi will be there who can Hit any Bowler in the world."

Unfortunately Afridi has proved, time & time again, that although he can hit any bowler in the world,, he is much much much likely to MISS EVERY bowler in the world. His ODI ave is 23.51 - pathetic - & his T20 ave 18.05 - that's schoolboy stuff.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (October 29, 2013, 2:42 GMT)

@ Arqam Khan thinks that Tahir will struggle against India. Well, that will not happen in the upcoming series, Arqam Khan. The very ordinary Indian batsmen, who wilt against true pace, will be lucky if they get to see any spin bowling - the pace will get them first. India are even losing, at home, to Australia. Ouch - that must hurt.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (October 29, 2013, 2:23 GMT)

@ umairasgharbutt wrote "test of character?? are you sure, what about ball tampering?"

According to the match referee, there was no ball tampering, and du Plessis did not admit to any ball tampering. The match referee's statement was: "After discussions with Mr du Plessis, he has elected not to contest that charge, but I am also satisfied that this was not part of a deliberate and/or prolonged attempt to unfairly manipulate the condition of the ball." Is there any part of that you do not understand? If so I will be more than willing to help explain the meaning of "not part of a deliberate and/or prolonged attempt to unfairly manipulate the condition of the ball." That means no ball tampering. Simple - that IS what it means.

Posted by Pakfan1947 on (October 29, 2013, 2:03 GMT)

Moonda which character your are talking about. Ball tempering character. Now empires have to watch SA player with eagle eye, what they are doing. If Pakistani players doing something wrong, whole world media creat a big issue. When SA players doing something wrong media not even paying attention and saying SA pass test of character.It makes sense ?

Posted by Greatest_Game on (October 29, 2013, 2:00 GMT)

@ SamRoy.Your analysis of the current SA team is, in my opinion at least, excellent. Alviro Petersen has played some great innings, but not enough to match the calibre of the rest of the top 5. He just does not protect the middle order. If SA continue to rely on their dominant pace attack, they will face spinning tracks wherever they go. It is a very simple equation!

I have no idea why SA are simply waiting for a spinner to appear from somewhere. Over the last 10 years they should have put a lot of focus in seeking out and training prospective test level spinners, finding & sending youngsters to train in the sub-continent. There is no spin bowling culture in SA, & they need to build one. It amazes me because SA had some great spinners in the past - Hugh Tayfield was a genuine all-time spin great!

Again - you have produced a very astute analysis of the Proteas.

Posted by sysubrceq0 on (October 28, 2013, 22:25 GMT)

Moonda - SA lost respect from all cricket fans after the ball tampering, seems like whole team is backing FAF for his action. 2nd Test is popular for not smith's 200 or ABD's lucky 100 or Tahir's 5 for spell. It will be remmbered as Ball tampered test down the line. its sad but fact.

Posted by Dadu786 on (October 28, 2013, 21:49 GMT)

Firdos, you are trying to make this team high in character, which is certainly not because the clear fotage of ball tempring, and peopole are not blind.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

The media can put any amount of lipstick on this test victory they want, truth is IN PAKISTAN, the ball tampering is being viewed as one reason for defeat, the initial wickets the South Africans got led to a 99 run innings, second innings once the tampering was discovered, Pakistan got 300+, this is just pathetic the weak response of the Pakistan cricket board to this, if I was captain I would have walked off the field, and what is this 50% match fee crap? Afridi tampered with the ball and got a 2 match ban? so Pakistanis are right when they say Pakistan is signaled out? frankly cricket as a sport has had OS MANY SCANDALS now, it is starting to look like English soccer matches. The series is won by Pakistan not a draw, the ODI's will prove this beyond doubt who is better, lets see what they can come up with.

Posted by Protears on (October 28, 2013, 14:42 GMT)

Much ado about zipgate, no wickets were taken with that ball and it was spotted early, there was nothing untoward about the ball but the umpires for fairness changed it, Du Plessis can answer for it in due course but that had no effect on the outcome of the test match.

Consider the facts in entirety before papering over the fact that Pakistan suffered a handsome beating on conditions tailored for Saeed Ajmal. Outside of Faff's ball shining misdemeanor it was a high dry and handsome beat down.

Posted by legsidewide on (October 28, 2013, 14:10 GMT)

Very poorly chosen title

Posted by AB_DeVilliers on (October 28, 2013, 13:09 GMT)

@WarVdm, SA beat Eng in England which for me means much more than beating them in SA. Also, if you look at the last Eng vs SA series in SA, other than the Durban test match which they lost, SA dominated the other 3 matches in the series and were denied twice on the last day by Eng. Having said that, agree that they will need to beat them in SA.

For me though, as a SA supporter, would love to see them win a hard-fought series in the sub-continent. I don't feel they're capable of it, but they've proven me wrong in the past.

As for the upcoming series against India - honestly, the tour is a shambles as a result of poor management by CSA, and BCCI being too powerful and proud. The best thing for cricket and team India, esp for their youngsters, would be a long tour. Sachin, the true legeng that he is, never won a test series in Aus or SA, and that's because of the conditions. You would think that India would want maximum exposure, for future tours. Anyway, excited for the series!

Posted by Protears on (October 28, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

One of the bigger talking points was that it was neither Steyn, Morkel or Phillander that won the match but the spinners accounting for 7 of 9 second innings wickets and 12 or 19 with one a run out. Offered the trust the spinners in a position they are not used to capitalised and won the game.

Posted by umairasgharbutt on (October 28, 2013, 11:36 GMT)

test of character?? are you sure, what about ball tampering?

Posted by humi_cric on (October 28, 2013, 10:50 GMT)

OK, SA is number one team outside subcontinent. Once they defeat India/Pakistan in a series in Sub-Continent they may become the great team like WI of 70s and mid 80s or Australia of 90s-2007. But wait, BIG NO because during their Golden era both WI and OZ also won world cups (complete dominance) and here we have BIG C.

Posted by WarVdm on (October 28, 2013, 10:27 GMT)

@ Muneeb_Dawood: This really is a great SA team, but as you say, they still have a couple of milestones left, especially beating India and/or Sri Lanka in their backgrounds and then beating Australia in SA. Beating England in SA would be another feat. Funny how SA have beaten both Australia and England away from home in their last two tours to both countries (2008 and 2012) but haven't managed to beat them at home. I hope the upcoming Indian tour to SA becomes a 3 Test Match Series, a 2 match Test Series means nothing, as we have just seen now against Pakistan. Who was the better team in the Series? One always needs at least 3 Tests, if not more.

Posted by mzm149 on (October 28, 2013, 9:02 GMT)

I fail to understand why did South African players involve in ball tempering when they were on top of the game.

Posted by AB_DeVilliers on (October 28, 2013, 8:06 GMT)

No team has been able to beat this SA side in a series for close on 5 years now (last defeat Jan/Feb '09). Imho, if you stay undefeated for so long and you've played all major cricketing nations home and away during this period (which SA have other than SL away which SL copped out of) then you deserve to be the undisputed number 1 regardless of the rankings. I suppose the rankings just re-inforce this.

For me, 3 more milestones for this team to achieve: 1. Beating India in SA; 2. Beating India (or any other sub-continent team) in India/sub-contitent; and 3. Beating Aus in SA. Numbers 1 and 3 can be achieved this summer.

I still feel that India away will be a big challenge for this team. SA have played 2 test series in India over the last few years, drawing both 1-1. I feel the young Indian team will give them a run for their money, in India. SA will beat them in SA, but it will be a challenge.

Looking forward to seeing more of this good team.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 7:30 GMT)

Face it people from the sub continent your team is not hte best nor have you got the best players - you have to face facts. Everytime i see comments like this on every article. South Africa is the best team at the moment and for a while longer still

Posted by Marktc on (October 28, 2013, 5:32 GMT)

One important point is that SA went into the first test very under-prepared. There should be the biggest lesson in that for the management and team. The media hypes things and it has done so with Tahir;s great match return. He has talent, but we will have to judge him after he has played another ten or so tests, not just this one. What I find interesting with so many people turn on SA so quickly. For many quarters they will never be seen as a worthy number one side, despite what they do. There will always be reasons sought as to why they are there and should not be.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 5:31 GMT)

Won the match but lost so many hearts Firdose

Posted by BaasHerman on (October 28, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

@aks1987 Only Tahir is from another country... The rest are all born and bred South Africans.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 4:31 GMT)

south africa regain the no 1 spot in the icc test ranking

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (October 28, 2013, 3:24 GMT)

Best team in the world. Full stop.

Posted by aks1987 on (October 28, 2013, 1:17 GMT)

South africa also going down the way England and Australia have. Getting players from other countries until you become world eleven.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (October 28, 2013, 1:06 GMT)

@Pureproteas, expensive means runs per over. Nothing to do with wickets taken, you can be expensive and take wickets. Do you understand?

Posted by mysecretme on (October 28, 2013, 0:40 GMT)

Few points: 1. the word in the title :- "character" just after a tampering episode :). Ok, we are not talking about good and bad after all :) 2. Umm, Kallis is a few matches away from retiring? I think that leaves a pretty big hole. 3. I think Khan was referring to Tahir's Australian exploits/expenses/ROI. 4. Ab D's wicket keeping-- every batsman wicket keeper had this issue after some time. He will drop a few catches, miss a few stumpings every other match and SA will pay a very heavy price. Ask Kamran Akmal and Pakistan.

Posted by Morfi on (October 27, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

@Jasoos bujo Kon: LOL!!! mate, did you not read Firdose's article on "another" C word for SAF? And mind you that word has made only its second appearance thanks to Faf (and Philander and Co) - the first one owed its origin to the late Cronje

Posted by Morfi on (October 27, 2013, 22:57 GMT)

From a neutral observer, the point is guys, SA were no where near their best in this series - except at looking after the ball... Pakistan were as they are... u predictable, hot and cold - but they gave due fight barring the first innings in the 2nd test. A few catches and marginal decisions their way and Saf would probably have scored around 250 in the 1st inns. And yes, a few less scratches on the ball and Pakistan might have managed 180 to make it a bit more even in the 2nd test... so yes, a good come back - but it is Pakistan that deserve the kudos - no one expected them to make it even 1-1 after their loss to Zim and SA recently.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

Tahir is Not Quality Bowler.... And Remember 1 thing... In ODI,s & T20 Afridi will be there who can Hit any Bowler in the world Lets wait & watch what tahir can do against Him.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 21:29 GMT)

@pureproteas....you are kidding right? u do know that 8/130 does not give you econ rate but average! anyways, clicking in one match on a spinners' paradise in no big deal. there were specks of dust and rough areas where he ws bowling, to the naked eye he is really an ordinary bowler.

Posted by PureProteas49 on (October 27, 2013, 17:58 GMT)

big LOL @ arquam Khan, 8/130 for the entire test, yes that's very expensive in a test, would love to know what your idea of a good economy rate is if that's expensive

Posted by PureProteas49 on (October 27, 2013, 17:36 GMT)

@Jasoos Bujo Kon, the article is about test cricket, not the WC, Please stick to the topic, at least we don't get shot out for figures like 99 and 46 in a test and on the odd occasion when we do we make up for it in the second innings, ask the ozzies

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

But They Are STILL THE CHOKERS!

Posted by mahjut on (October 27, 2013, 15:41 GMT)

Lol @ Arqam Khan ... You're not "sorry to say" you're clearly dying to say Tahir is ordinary. His FC record is pretty immense and cannot just be lucky having been played in three continents regularly. I do concede he bowls too many loose balls but he still takes wickets so if Hash, Smith and Abdv have posted 500 in India he'll defo be worth the risk cos he also bowls some very decent stuff

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 13:56 GMT)

sorry to say but tahir is just an ordinary bowler who bowls too many loose deliveries. the pakistani batsmen just did not play well against him. playing him against the srilankans or the indians will be a huge mistake. i wont be surprised if he breaks his own record for the most expensive figures

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