England in South Africa 2009-10 January 18, 2010

Morkel's emergence biggest gain

Morne Morkel's evolution was the biggest gain for the hosts in this series, while Dale Steyn, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher rose to the occasion like true champions

South Africa were made to work hard for their well-deserved share of the series, but eventually broke England's resistance in a floodgate-opening victory at the Wanderers. Andrew McGlashan casts his eye over the men who contested the series.

Graeme Smith - 9

In his country's hour of need Smith, once again, came forward to accept the challenge. After a poor start at Centurion he became increasingly dominant and his back-to-back innings of 183 and 105 would, in most circumstances, have been enough to secure a series victory. With James Anderson struggling to find his inswing to the left-handers, England didn't have a bowler to control Smith as Matthew Hoggard did so well five years so. Still, he came to the Wanderers as a captain under pressure, but galvanised his team in produce a commanding display. As an opener Smith is right at the top of the pile and if he is hungry enough, and his team can build on their efforts in the last two Tests, he has many years in front of him. Should have been Man of the Series.

Ashwell Prince - 2

He has always been a reluctant opener and Prince's results reflected his unease at the position. The series started promisingly enough with a gusty 45 in the first innings at Centurion, but after that it was a case of diminishing returns. He was on the receiving end of some good balls, especially in the first innings at Durban and Cape Town, but also became paralysed against Graeme Swann which isn't a good sign with a tour to India looming. His place for the trip is under threat and his future, if he has one, should lie in the middle order.

Hashim Amla - 7

Amla is a vastly improved player from the one labelled a "walking wicket" by the visitors during the 2004-05 tour. England still felt they had his number, but Amla's results suggest otherwise with three important innings during the series. His second-innings hundred at Centurion was a masterful display on a tricky surface, while his punchy displays at Cape Town and the Wanderers were ideal counter-attacking knocks, tailor-made for the situation. Apart from a ropey match at Durban, he was also impressive at short leg. A possible future captain.

Jacques Kallis - 9

What a phenomenal cricketer. The game will only truly appreciate how great Kallis is when he eventually retires. He will leave a gaping hole in South Africa's team. The series began with doubts over his fitness, but they were immediately allayed with a superb opening-day hundred, a feat repeated in tough conditions at Newlands. That both centuries came after South Africa were put in is further evidence of his skill. After his rib injury healed he returned to bowling duties and provided a useful holding role, and the imbalance of the team when he couldn't provide those overs highlighted his importance to the side.

AB de Villiers - 7

It was a strange series for de Villiers, who never quite cashed in as his form threatened he might, yet he played some momentum-seizing innings. At Centurion and Newlands he helped take the game away from England with counter-attacking displays, always keen to try and dominate Swann with swift footwork. Was involved in a horrid mix-up with Smith at Durban and gifted his wicket in the first innings at Cape Town, but played selflessly when the team needed it. Electric in the field and wasn't afraid to get under England's skins.

JP Duminy - 3

Duminy was a shadow of the player that took Australia by storm a little over a year ago and now faces a challenge to reaffirm his credentials. England targeted him with the short ball in the ODIs and began with the same plan in the Tests, but he also had plenty of problems against Swann. In fact, Duminy's own offspin was his main contribution to the series as he sparked England's last collapse at Newlands, but if Prince is moved down the order he could find himself out of the side. Remains a huge talent.

Mark Boucher - 8

You can't buy experience like Boucher's. He has seen everything the game can throw at him and remains vital to South Africa as they try to rediscover their top form. Before the series there were suggestions that his time may be coming to an end, but after consistent contributions with bat and gloves he showed he has plenty of time left in the game - not that there are many challengers for his position. His 95 at the Wanderers was just the innings South Africa needed and he passed 5000 Test runs. He will soon overtake Adam Gilchrist as the highest scoring wicketkeeper of all time and he still catches everything behind the stumps

Dale Steyn - 8

If Steyn had been fully fit through the series, South Africa would have emerged on top. As it transpired, he missed the first Test and wasn't fully recovered at Durban. Only at Cape Town and the Wanderers did he hit his straps, and in those two Tests he was simply awesome. It's still impossible to work out how he didn't remove Paul Collingwood at Newlands and he fully deserved his five-wicket haul in the final Test. With such a smooth action he is wonderful to watch and is comfortably the leading quick bowler in the world. His batting is also improving and the No. 8 position can be a long-term aim.

Morne Morkel - 8

South Africa's biggest gain from this series has been the development of Morkel. The expectations have always been huge and Morkel hadn't quite lived up to the hype earlier in his career. Now he looks ready to become the ideal new-ball partner for Steyn. His height creates disconcerting bounce from a good length while he has the pace to go along with it. His hold over Andrew Strauss was a key feature of the series and gave South Africa vital control over the England captain. His five-wicket haul at Cape Town, and the way he regularly roughed up the tail, bodes well for the future.

Paul Harris - 5

Harris himself knows he isn't the most talented spinner in the world and some of the criticism he receives is unfair, but when South Africa were twice aiming to bowl England out in the second innings he couldn't do the job. He started well with a five-wicket haul at Centurion, but from there his confidence ebbed away. His performance at Cape Town was particularly disappointing as he struggled to find the correct length and was outbowled by Duminy. After a horses-for-courses omission at the Wanderers, Harris will regain his place for India where he must at least provide his captain with control.

Friedel de Wet - 5

His future appears in doubt after he picked up a serious back injury at Newlands and he faces a lengthy period on the sidelines. It's sad because, while not being an outstanding prospect, he certainly appeared capable of holding his own. He almost secured victory on his debut with a late final-day burst with the new ball at Centurion before being omitted for Steyn's return. Despite being in pain he ran in for his captain at Cape Town which showed his heart.

Makhaya Ntini - 2

It's always sad to see a player who has provided so much for his country fade away however, Ntini's decline had been apparent for some time. He was always going to play his 100th Test at Centurion and it became an emotional affair and a hugely significant moment for South Africa. He was given a final chance at Durban but cut a forlorn figure as he went wicketless and was targeted by England. His axing, amid plenty of conjecture, didn't come as any surprise and he looks set to end short of the 400-wicket mark. Expect plenty of success in county cricket.

Wayne Parnell - 6

He's billed as the Next Big Thing in South African cricket and after a nervous first-innings display on debut he gave a glimpse of his potential with the wickets of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen. He is a combative character and may need a controlling arm at times, but Smith is strong captain who can provide that. Was down to bat at No. 11 but is seen as an all-round option in the years to come.

Ryan McLaren - 5

Whether McLaren has a long-term future a Test level is debatable, although he let no one down on his debut at the Wanderers. His accurate seam helped keep the pressure on England in the first innings and accounted for the in-form Paul Collingwood, while he clubbed useful runs before the declaration.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Glenn on January 21, 2010, 12:31 GMT

    I think the problem with Prince at the top is actually his lack of willingness to open... Unlike Mckenzie who stated he would bat anywhere if it meant he could play for SA, while Prince might say the same I don't believe him...

  • Paul on January 19, 2010, 14:14 GMT

    It's sad to see a good middle order batsman wrecked by opening. The reality is either Amla or De Villiers are good enough to open and one of them should be made to be. Prince is a victim of his willingness to do the job when others don't want to. Duminy should be persevered with at least for one more series. I'm not convinced Parnel is the "next big thing" but he has potential. The lack of a quality spinner will hurt in India though.

  • Craig on January 19, 2010, 11:06 GMT

    Neiljturner makes some good points about reshuffling the batting order. It is painful to watch Prince struggle with none of the other experienced players, like Kallis or de Villiers putting up their hands to relieve him of the responsibility. But in terms of there being no alternative, a certain Mr. Herschelle Herman Gibbs may disagree. The man has 2 double hundreds and still averages more than 40 in test cricket. He is, in addition, a genuine matchwinner, and perhaps deserves one more chance before his genius is consigned to the ranks of the retired. Gibbs did have a bad run in tests that led to him being dropped, but he is in sparkling form at the moment and remains one of the most talented Proteas ever.

  • Benjamin on January 19, 2010, 5:55 GMT

    Schnogg I agreed with your assessment of the English rankings but I'm not sure about your assesment of the Australian team. Didn't they beat your on your own turf back in March-April 09 with a team that was rebuilding. Johnson, Siddle, Bolinger, and Hilfernhus are a formidable 4. Maybe not as potent as Steyne and Morkle but as 4 bowlers combined are better than SA's top 4 bowlers. Parnell is young and has a lot to prove at this stage. Being a good ODI bowler doens't make you a good test bowler. Look at Brett Lee for example, averages 30+ per wicket and has never taken a 10 wicket match. yet takes his ODI wickets at 22. No one has a good spinner bar Sri Lanka and Pakistan at present. Swan, Vittorie, and Hauritz are rarely going to win games consistently. Good bowling sides win tests, you can always scrape together runs. Look at the WI's from the 70's to early 90's and the Aussies from Early 90's to 2007 they had the best bowling attacks in the world. It's all about taking 20 wickets.

  • Joshua on January 19, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    Good assesment, although a 9 for boucher i think would have been more appropriate as he did average more than kallis and was as usual excellent behind the stumps. However my only real problem is with the assesment that SA do not have anyone to replace Boucher. Now I'm not saying Boucher needs replacing, as he has returned to form and I'm sure we'll be seeing him for years to come, but there is one man that I believe would serve SA well in the keeping postion given the chance. His name is Heino Kuhn and he has actually played a twenty20 for SA before. With a first class average of near 44, strong ability behind the stumps, a top score of 216 and at the age of just 25, I ceratinly see a strong future for this yound talented wicketkeeeper/batsman.

  • Neil on January 18, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    Given that there isn't an obvious alternative to Prince as an opening bat, is it not worth South Africa considering a simple reshuffle? Hashim Amla has a superb technique and his partnerships with Smith to date have been impressive. Perhaps trying him opening the batting, with Kallis reverting to three and Prince coming in at four? Or perhaps give Duminy a go at three where he'll see slightly less spin, and Prince down to six?

  • Brendan on January 18, 2010, 18:49 GMT

    If you've given Harris 5, then Duminy deserves more than 3 out of 10.

  • ARVIND on January 18, 2010, 18:04 GMT

    Am suprised at Morkel given 8 points. He deserved 9. Same with Steyn. Prince was a failure.

  • Craig on January 18, 2010, 15:41 GMT

    Fair ratings, I still cant believe SA only drew the series but an opener and spinner is vital if we are going to consistently top the rankings. With 4 solid top 6 batsman and Boucher contributing like a top 6 batsman - the batsman can afford 2 passengers although a solid opener alongside Smith would be very intimidating for any bowling line up. Duminy's spin and age will prob mean the selcetors preserve with him.

    The new ball partnership looks unreal, and Parnell as the third seamer is the future for SA (never mind the formidable tale). For me, Steyn and Morkel are the next Ambrose and Walsh, very exciting and even though SA has 2 weaknesses - which top 4 team doesnt have a weakness (India - lack of quality pace), Australia (lack of spin, 6 position and a third seamer), Sri Lanka (lack of pace and consistency). Looking forward, SA have the talent to be the worlds best even though the series result wasnt too flattering.

  • Craig on January 18, 2010, 12:23 GMT

    Good assessments that are pretty much on the mark. It is difficult to criticise Smith with him having batted as he did, and he certainly is a strong leader. I do however think that he made a few decisions that, had they been different, may well have resulted in a series win rather than a draw. In centurion he took the new ball immediately after Duminy had taken a wicket with the old one, and let England off the hook, while in Cape Town, he just didn't give Duminy enough of the bowling, favouring the ineffectual Harris. As a player Smith is headed for undisputed greatness, but his captaincy needs more work, not in terms of leadership but in terms of decison-making. Also, what responsibility does a captain have to accept for his team entering a test series so unprepared, and for fielding bowlers that are clearly not over injury (Kallis and Steyn), which ultimately cost the test match in Durban?

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