South Africa v England, 4th Test, Johannesburg, 4th day January 17, 2010

Smith satisfied after justice is served

This was more like the South Africa who dominated world cricket through 2008 and rose to the top of the tree

The South Africans will feel justice has been done. Such was the dominance of their display at the Wanderers that it's impossible to deny that they fully deserved a share of the spoils. They believed that coming into the final Test, but the pressure was on them to deliver a performance after twice pulling up agonisingly short. This time they left nothing to chance and there was nothing close about the result.

This was more like the South Africa who dominated world cricket through 2008 and rose to the top of the tree before disappearing over the last 12 months. They were so motivated for this contest - they couldn't really believe how the visitors held the advantage heading into the final Test - and that made them an unstoppable force. England played their worst game since the thrashing against Australia, at Headingley, but they were never allowed into the match.

Over the last four days the hosts have shown a ruthlessness that isn't often associated with their cricket, typified by the positive batting approach and their fourth-morning demolition of England's second innings. This time they weren't going to leave anything to chance, especially with thunderstorms looming each day.

"If we are honest we could easily be sat here 3-1 up," Graeme Smith said. "We've played the better cricket in three out of four games. It could have been easy for us to run out of puff after giving so much in Cape Town, but we bounced back and each guy was hungry to perform well.

"We lacked knock-out blows in Centurion and Cape Town - England showed great resilience throughout the series and played well at Durban - but it was great for us to be able to play such convincing cricket here. We really dominated the game and came out deserved winners of the Test."

After three matches in which South Africa felt certain things hadn't gone their way - from weather conditions, to pitches, to injuries - they couldn't really have produced a more perfect match. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were outstanding attack leaders, Smith led from the front with the bat and was followed by Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher, then the bowlers did their job a second time. Even the two debutants, Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren, played their part with Parnell claiming the key second-innings scalps of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen.

"I'm just really proud of the way the guys played," he added. "We had two debutants who put in solid performances. We certainly were the team who were hungrier going into this game and we played that way. It shows this team wants to progress and within the group there is a real drive to be better."

Smith didn't try to hide the fact that he thought England had aided their own downfall in the way they handled the review system. Smith, himself, was at the centre of the main controversy over his 'edge' on the second morning, but he said the visitors allowed it to get into their mindset and South Africa were pleased to take advantage.

"It's something that has made us happy," Smith said. "We feel that England spent so much time and energy on that stuff that it really allowed us to focus on our cricket. To see them really lose focus on what was important gave us more confidence through the game."

The series has grown increasingly antagonistic on the field although Smith said he hoped to share a beer with the England team. "It's something I'd like to do." Indeed the players did spend a couple of hours together after the formalities were complete.

However, when pushed on where England stand in the current world game, he gave them a cautious rating based on their "potential", and made a pointed dig at their selection for this match by picking Graham Onions as their best seamer.

"England have come here and played well throughout the summer," Smith said. "Graeme Swann has had an outstanding series and from our perspective Paul Collingwood has been the glue in the batting line up. Their seamers have bowled well, especially Graham Onions. He was a new package for us and asked a lot of questions. There's potential there, but there will be a lot of challenges ahead for any team. World cricket today is pretty close and if you aren't good enough in the series, or things don't go your way, then you have to fight to stay in it."

The home side certainly feel they are the superior side and at the end of the series it's hard to argue against that claim. Their batting was far more productive and, with Steyn and Morkel at the helm, they have the more potent pace attack. The only area they fall short in is the spin department and the tour to India will test them fully on that.

South Africa, though, can't afford to get carried away by this victory. After all, the series started with the expectation that they would dominate throughout. However, after a very difficult 2009, which ended with that crushing defeat in Durban, Smith feels his side can now return to their previous levels.

"We thought after 2008 that we were heading in the right direction and then we took a step back. But in 2010 we have started in a really positive way with a good Test in Cape Town and an even better one here, so we certainly want to see our curve going back upwards."

For now Smith will sit back with a sigh of relief that this series didn't slip away. That would have taken some explaining.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shannon on January 18, 2010, 9:23 GMT

    "England played dreadfully and still got a draw, so how bad a captain must Smith be to not have beaten us?"

    Absolutely. Smith is the 2nd worst captain in Tests at the moment (with the worst being Ponting, obviously, and I'm an Aussie!)

    As well as poor tacticians, you won't see a less graceful winner than Smith in particular and the Saffer brains trust in general. So, very glad they DIDN'T WIN this Test Series. Although, typically, they're carrying on like they did.

  • Mainuddin on January 18, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    This was a successful tour for England. Having won the ODI series, they managed to draw the test series. No one had expected this at the start of this tour. And remember, this was the first test series of the post-Flintoff era and our best batsman KP was seriously out of form. If everything goes fine, we are in for an exciting Ashes series at the end of the year.

  • Stefan on January 18, 2010, 8:44 GMT

    truly deserved vectory; as said below, except for Durban, England looked an "ordinary' side (using Indian expressions). Collingwood and Swann were the only players that would make SA squad. Sa lacks spin capabilities, that would have won them Centurion and Cape Town tests, but Duminy is progressing, he is still young and can develop further. what a contest it should be in India. test cricket is well alive and the last series have been absorbing, this cannot be compared with short format, twenty20 will soon become ordinary because of growing number of games played, while tests will always remain special and something extraordinary in sporting world

  • Ross on January 18, 2010, 8:24 GMT

    But for a freaky session in Durban, South Africa played pretty much the best cricket all series through. The were definitely at a low and underperforming when the series started, but it seems the behemoth is moving again.

    For the future: Duminy must work really hard, on both his batting and bowling. He can turn it, but needs to work on control now. Then comes variations. But it would be awesome if he was good enough to stay as an all-rounder when Kallis eventually retires.

    The opening issue needs to be sorted out. I think AB needs to step up...he's had time to prove himself up to Ponting's level if he wants to be the world's best batsman, and he has not made the grade. So either he must put in the work to open, or put in the work to keep. I support Boucher to stay keeper for the moment, but they must start training a replacement.

    And lastly, a new spinner. Someone who can attack and trouble batsmen. Harris is not that. For variation's sake, I'd prefer Tahir.

  • Samuel on January 18, 2010, 8:21 GMT

    The more The Witness moans about deserving to have one 3-1, the more he calls into questions his decisions as captain. Let's be honest, England played dreadfully and still got a draw, so how bad a captain must Smith be to not have beaten us?

  • Barry on January 18, 2010, 8:17 GMT

    Unfortunately for me the series will be remembered for the controversies. Probably the most important one is the fact that after the ball alleged tampering incident on the third morning of the Cape Town test the English bowlers seized to be a threat for the rest of the series. This brings into question their achievement in Durban. Did they really deserve that win? How did they manage to start reverse swinging the ball in the 15th over? More disturbing to me was the behaviour of Little Miss Board and then even more the failure of the authorities to deal with it. I mean storming into the fourth umpire's box and behaving and looking like a petulant child for most of the series is just not on. He does damage to the image of English cricket and they can hardly afford that. Lastly just a bit about KP. He has made it known that he is getting tired of the boos whenever he sets his foot on a cricket field in South Africa. What else can he expect after the comment he has made about this country

  • Rajaram on January 18, 2010, 6:29 GMT

    South Africa was far and away better than England.They deserved to win 3 -1.

  • Guru on January 18, 2010, 5:55 GMT

    Well and truly justice got served finally. SA could easily have been 3-1. The final encounter was thrilling from SA point of view because it would go down as one of the best victories achieved in recent times at home. Considering the pressure build up before the start of the match, SA held the nerve and was spot on from ball one. Morne and Steyn looked devastatingly dangerous and blown england away. The ball that dismissed Trott in the second innings was peach of a delivery from Steyn. Had he been in that sort of touch in the first two matches, things could have been totally different. It was an all round comprehensive performance from the home side. They gave their best when it mattered most. But SA has to get the overall combination right in batting and bowling department when they set to tour India. That will be more challenging due to totally unfavorable conditions to their bowlers and very tough ask for the batsmen. For the moment they can rejoice their astounding victory.

  • Peter on January 18, 2010, 5:01 GMT

    And if my Aunty was a man she would be my uncle. Congratulations to SA for drawing a series they should have won in a canter. My only question is that India South Africa will be 1v2 in the world and it is a 2 test series? This is ridiculous and although until recently they were scheduled to play 5 ODI's they should play at least three tests and not this farcical 2 test "series"

  • Chatty on January 18, 2010, 2:19 GMT

    SA are clearly the best side in the world right now - despite not having a quality spinner. But they will not be dominant like the WI and Assuies of old. They will often lose when the conditions are unfavourable. But, they are the best of the lot. India's No. 1 ranking is just a fluke. But India are not too far behind. They, together with Aussies and S Lankans are next best (bunched together) - they will win when conditons are favourable - India on flat tracks, Assuies on Bouncy tracks, and SL on spinning tracks. England I think are rightly ranked at No. 5, right now. But they too are only marginally below the second ranked bunch of nations. The problem for England is not really lack of talent, but their whinging mentality. Overall, it is a good time or competitive test cricket!

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