South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 4th day

South Africa excellent, but not yet great

South Africa are undoubtedly the best Test side at present but they still have much to achieve to be considered among the all-time great teams

Firdose Moonda at Newlands

February 17, 2013

Comments: 130 | Text size: A | A

South Africa celebrate a wicket, South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 1st day, February 14, 2013
How does this South African team compare to the great Test sides of the past? © Associated Press
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One way of judging how much a series victory means to a team is perhaps by the scale of their celebrations. South Africa's recent ones have involved singing the team song on the pitch. They sang it at Lord's, they did it in Perth and at Newlands, after beating Pakistan. They did not do it in Port Elizabeth, after their resounding triumph over New Zealand.

Success over Pakistan is highly valued, as was evident when the squad emerged two hours after the winning runs were scored, dodged the sprinklers that were watering the outfield and formed a huddle on the pitch. They did their thing and left to the sounds of the occupants in one of the hospitality suites chanting, "Happy Birthday," to AB de Villiers, who turned 29 today.

The result gave South Africa breathing room at the top of the Test rankings, a sixth consecutive series win, a 14th unbeaten Test match in as many months, and Graeme Smith a fifth consecutive Test win, the longest such streak in his captaincy. Those numbers make it sound like the start of a dynasty but to call it that would be premature.

How South Africa see themselves now

  • Graeme Smith: "This is one of the more rewarding victories we've had. We want to keep producing these types of results. We don't sit in the change-room believing the stuff of invincibility. It's nice to know we are a team that can perform in different conditions. We were speaking about recognising the moment and that's what we did in this match."
  • Robin Peterson: "The guys are maturing and there is a good mix of older heads and younger players. Graeme has matured as a captain, Gary [Kirsten] has made a big difference and Jacques Kallis is there for experience. We've got exciting bowlers and good batting depth. It's mentally draining to play a Test match like this but good to come out of it like we did."

South Africa are a worthy No.1 side and of the three teams to have had that honour recently - England and India being the other two - they seem to have the right mix of personnel and personality to stay on top for a period of time. South Africa's batting line-up has been described as among the best at the moment, but it is the bowling that has been the centerpiece of their success.

The pace pack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, and the added value of Jacques Kallis, has been compared to the greats of old - the 1980s West Indians, although South Africa lack the same terrifying pace in every one of their bowlers, or the Australian attack of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie, but South Africa don't have the equivalent of Shane Warne.

Their first-choice spinner at the moment, Robin Peterson, had a massive impact on this Newlands Test but by his own admission you had to "deal with what you have." He does not turn the ball prodigiously, and doesn't often get favourable conditions at home, and he has learned to work within these boundaries.

So how close are South Africa to establishing their reign as an era? The mighty West Indies went 29 series without defeat. The closest anybody came to that was Australia, who did not lose for 16 series. South Africa just completed their 12th without losing. It puts into perspective how much more there is to achieve before they can consider themselves among the all-time greats.

They are, however, giants in their own country. This is their longest unbeaten streak, beating the 11 between 1998 and 2001. They are also close to completing seven years of being unbeaten away from home. They are part of an environment that is more competitive because the top teams are not far apart. This match was an example of that.

South Africa were made to work for their victory. Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq's twin centuries along with Saeed Ajmal's ten wickets gave South Africa's their first strenuous workout of the summer.

Ajmal really made them sweat. The world's premier spin bowler proved difficult to pick on a surface that suited him far more than the one at the Wanderers. It will give South Africa's batsmen something to think about, for the next Test in Centurion and for the test after that, in the UAE.

There is territory Smith's team has not conquered. They haven't won in India, Sri Lanka or the UAE. They have the opportunity of crossing the Emirates off the list later in the year. Until then, parties on the pitch will have to do.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by midnightmare on (February 20, 2013, 3:35 GMT)

You should specify that it is SA under Smith that has not won in India. SA as a team has indeed won a Test series in India. 2 match series that they won 2-0 in 1999/2000 if I recollect...

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 15:30 GMT)

I do not care whether this SA team is great or not. I just know they give me endless pleasure watching because they never give up, play positively and in the right spirit, do it for their country, supporters and themselves. They are representative of all population groups in the country and serve as a uniting factor. The last SA teams that were that good were those led by Peter vd Merwe (1965 -1967) and Ali Bacher (1970). It remains a shame that they could never play the West Indies during those years because Australia (3-1) in 1966/7 (Bob Simpson) and Bill Lawry (4-zip) in 1969/70 could not test them at all.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 14:45 GMT)

A person that says kallis do not play attractive innings must be stupid. Who have the most elegant technique? Drives the ball for 4 effordless through the covers, straight, onside, backfoot drive. He's consistant,scores runs everyware and during the early part of his carreer carried our batting. He was our banker. Since Amla came to the team and scored consistantly he is playing with more freedom.Unlike some great he batted the bulk of his carreer at 3 and 4 and not 6 like that person. If i want somebody to bat for my life it would be him. He saved us from a lot oflosses and with his runs scoring allowed us to win games.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 13:50 GMT)

"Kallis is a great batsman no doubt. But he has played very few dominant or even attractive innings,either in SA or elsewhere around the world. That is the reason I say he is not in the league of all time greats. Just going by averages and difficulty of circumstances(ignoring uniqueness) he may be regarded as better than Sachin,Ponting,Lara."

Attractive innings???? what do you mean by that? as for dominan neither Alan Border or Steve Waugh were particularly dominant batters but you ask any australian if there are two other batsman they would want to bat for their lives in the last 30 years?

What I dont get is why people don't accept results and always talk about fantasy? fact is this Current SA has team has lost one series in the last 23 are unbeaten away from home for six years! there is currently no other team currently who can boast that! the windes and aussies of old have no bearing on whether SA are the best current team now!

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 13:27 GMT)

let them come come to UAE .Pak cleansweepd england in UAE ans same will be done to this so called no 1 test team and at that time england was no 1 nd we must not compare this SA Team to the greats of past becos they are always dependent on three to four players of their team rest perform randomly .....therz no consistancy like the olds of aussies and windies

Posted by crashed on (February 19, 2013, 13:08 GMT)

Oh well for those that turns a blind eye to the current SA teams performance is missing a great deal of history I rather enjoy the ride enjoy the match and smile at those that do not want to accept the teams current form and shout not good enough. Problem is if you do not watch it you might miss the moment SA is termed as great and everybody except you guys will recognise the moment. I do not want to miss it so for me they are the best and that for me is enough ... :) enjoy the ride do not miss the matches or you might miss the moment of greatness as well and may never have the guts to admit that they are great even when they are

Posted by Protears on (February 19, 2013, 12:37 GMT)

Cricket is not a game of if's and but's, "if this happened, but for that". Are you lot going to honestly tell me that there were no times that the "Great" Windies or Australian teams did not have to dig down deep backs to the wall to win a match or series?, are you telling me they blew away every team every match for their entire era of dominance.

South Africa since readmission have won test series in each of the sub continent nations, twice in Pakistan, three in Bangladesh, one in India and Sri Lanka, yet these teams have not won a series in South Africa. Since we are talking about that, if these South African pitches made bowling easy then why is it these teams have not managed to win. It works equally for both teams.

Posted by Soso_killer on (February 19, 2013, 8:43 GMT)

@Papa_Tango is that the same Ajmal who was bullied for over 4 runs an over in Joburg? Is that the same Ajmal that SA "cant play"?

The "context" of his wickets in the second innings was that SA were going for quick runs and threw their wickets away at the end. The 4 wicket margin of victory flattered Pakistan to be honest. In reality they should have won by 7 wickets atleast.

You can speculate all you want about 100/50 extra runs on the board. But SA won the game comfortably. If they were chasing 250 then the game would have went to day 5 and SA still could have won with 6 wickets to spare. But thats all speculation.

Posted by Soso_killer on (February 19, 2013, 8:31 GMT)

Alot of comments here are utter rubbish. Especial for an article that clearly states that South Africa are not great yet.

Australia was a great team for sure, but they are not as perfect as people make them out to be. If you take off your rose tinted glasses for a bit then you will realise they also had weaknesses. Their record in the subcontinent for a team that is considered to be perfect is indifferent. In fact SA have won more games there than Australia and have a better win/loss ratio.

They also carried passengers at times go look at Hayden's record in South Africa and England you will notice he averages under 35 in each of these countries, while the "inconsistent" Smith averages 44 and 67 respectively.

Australia were a great team yes, "perfect and invincible" NO!! Statements like SA are not anywhere near them are out of joint. They are not there yet, i agree with that, but given time we will see.

Posted by Nick636 on (February 19, 2013, 7:34 GMT)

@ LillianThompson

I do apologise, but I must say your view of the current South African side is narrower than ANYTHING you label as such. There is no space in the world for hindsight and "Ifs and Buts..."

The fact remains that 8 weeks ago, Australia did NOT dismiss Faf du Plessis. And calling for his head after having a slightly off series (when his contributions were still substantial). I do agree that Elgar doesn't seem to be settling that easily, but again, rather early to be screaming for his head. As for the Petersons, I again hit the "DISAGREE" button. Alviro, in his last 7 tests, has 3 fifties (2 against Aus) and a 100 and has made himself near invaluable in the slips... I think the scary thing about the current Proteas side is that they are NUMBER 1 and LARGELY INEXPERIENCED... Imagine when they are all seasoned campaigners...?

Posted by tony122 on (February 19, 2013, 3:57 GMT)

@Ryan Srephen- I believe not. SA pitches are on balance the hardest to bat. But uniqueness factor also comes in- something very hard for others but of course not so for home players.SA pitches combine the seam movement of Eng pitches and the bounce of Aussie pitches. Till 90's Aussie pitches had more bounce but not now. NZ pitches are a lot like Eng pitches. A few SA,Eng,WI pitches resemble an average Aussie track. Kallis is a great batsman no doubt. But he has played very few dominant or even attractive innings,either in SA or elsewhere around the world. That is the reason I say he is not in the league of all time greats. Just going by averages and difficulty of circumstances(ignoring uniqueness) he may be regarded as better than Sachin,Ponting,Lara.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 1:51 GMT)

What about being excellent for long time, instead be great and become awful.

Posted by donavan27 on (February 18, 2013, 23:51 GMT)

The proteas beat australia in australia back to back, beat england in england back to back, have regularly found success in india over the years, although greatness will only be determined way down the road, they are currently the best side around and @lilian, replace faf? he will mature into a fine player down the road, he proved his mental capacity by keeping the aussie out, elgar, is one the finest domestic players around in south africa, and will prove his worth still, keeping issue is an easily resolved in quinton de kock, south africa's version of gilchrist, all they really need is to clone shane warne as there is no sight of a spinner coming through soon

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 22:17 GMT)

South Africa is a great team with great personality but if pakistan would have picked adnan or Kamran akmal instead of sarfraz a player that can not bat if it was a beech ball maybe they could have performed a lot better

Posted by TurningSquare on (February 18, 2013, 21:12 GMT)

I only think when South Africa stop picking gap fill players like Petersen, Peterson and Elgar they can be considered a great team. Don't get me wrong Petersen has some talent but I'm not sure he's consistent enough and Elgar really doesn't convince me at all, albeit a first class average of over 40.

With JP back, a reliable new opener and a quality spinner then they really will be formidable. The mid 2000's Australians had it all and that is the modern benchmark for teams to be compared against.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 21:10 GMT)

@tony122 You have contradicted yourself there:

"2- SA pitches are the hardest to bat and are perhaps unique in the world. So their players enjoy a more pronounced home advantage than other teams.

... But it is also a fact their best batsmen be it Kallis or Amla cannot claim to be a dominant all time great batsman.. "

If the stats say that Kallis' average is higher than Tendulkar, Ponting and Lara. (Significantly higher than Ponting and Lara) , and SA pitches are "the hardest to bat on" at the same time, Then Kallis must be way ahead the best batsmen of the modern era.

So why is he not then? Either you have to admit that SA pitches are not so bad, or if you insist that SA pitches are the hardest to bat on then Kallis is out of this world good.

Personally I think that neither is true and the real balance is somewhere in the middle.

Posted by Hardy1 on (February 18, 2013, 20:00 GMT)

To be honest I don't even understand why this article is here. Yes South Africa have been excellent for a good while now but they've been the number one ranked team for less than a year, & are nowhere near the West Indies side of the 80s or the recent Australian team (even if they do manage to go more than 16 series unbeaten, you just have to look at the W/L ratio of the Australian team to understand the difference in quality between this South African side & that Australian side). Petersen, Peterson, Elgar & Du Plessis are all still debatable positions, which was not the case with the West Indies & Australian teams, & with Kallis probably retiring within 2 years, I can't see this SA team producing what the two aforementioned sides have done. Still a top top team of course, let's wait & see what they can do.

Posted by cricket-india on (February 18, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

a point overlooked is that faf and elgar at 6 and 7 are not the finished article. faf has his adelaide heroics to remind us what he's capable of but since then he's got out softly after getting his eye in. he needs to guard against going the duminy way. elgar got runs against nz but higher quality bowling has exposed him. with kallis on the brink of retirement, amla and ABde will have a greater role to play. whle there's no doubting amla, ABde has us unconvinced in his ability to play quality spin and score big consistently while he juggles keeping duties with it. alviro gets to open only due to the TINA factor, and that's not good. SA may remain no.1 for a while, but as others have written here, eng/aus/ pak are breathing down their necks. will be interesing to see how they handle kallis' retirement, lack of a quality spinner, dodgy middle order bats and alteratives to alviro. and what abt the pacers losing steam in the face of resistance and waiting for the new ball to get wickets???

Posted by dariuscorny on (February 18, 2013, 18:52 GMT)

this South African team is awesome as long as they hv this fabulous run,but in my view a great team induces fear through the spine of the opponent team,like Aus team of the 90s and 2000s,which featured Hayden,Langer,Ponting,Martyn and the demolition man Gilchrist ,how can a bowler will not fear to bowl to these set of batsmen who just kept coming,i hv never seen a team with these set of legends playing at one go and they had the services of great Glenn Mcgrath,Warne also had the lightining pace of Lee,they never needed an allrounder coz they had genuine legends for genuine purpose,SA are an excellent test side but definitely not of the class of great Aussie team of 90s and 2000s

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 18:44 GMT)

Let me tell you 1 thing guys !!! it is too early to say SA all time great team without testing them in UAE and in INDIA ... these two tours will tell where they stand ... If they beat Pakistan in UAE and India in India then I will be the first person from Sub-Continent to label them the Giant of World Cricket ...

Posted by shanmugham_ump_tpt. on (February 18, 2013, 18:09 GMT)

as this matter is irrelavent to the issue as this includes about south african team, and being a south african team fan, my thaughts....i accept according to the stats and facts given by firdose moonda, as we know its true that pakistan had never one a single match against india in any icc knock out matches, and this is same with southafrican team they never won a single knock out game in any icc tots, never, ever. EVEN IF they made great g kirsten as coach for national team coach, i bet they they will never be the icc champions, be coz they (the whole team lack of unity and self confidence)

Posted by CDUP on (February 18, 2013, 17:55 GMT)

As for SA struggling with spin: have a look at Kallis, Amla and de Villers' averages in the subcontinent recently - all around the 50 mark. And did people forget what Amla and Kallis did to Swann at the Oval (flat track) last year? And before the T20 world cup, even Muralitharan praised de Villiers as one of the best spin players in the world currently. This claim of struggling with spin is all based on Ajmal taking 10wktes in a match SA ended up winning. If they struggle so much how did they manage to outbat Pakistan on a very spin friendly track? What are people expecting? Are they supposed to score 600 on a spin freindly pitch (with consistantly low batting totals) against the no1 spin bowler in test cricket?

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 17:43 GMT)

This SA team is the number one team at present, no doubt. But very far behind the great West Indian sides from 197 tom1995. They were just incomparable. Apart from the pace attack, only Steyn & Philander none of the other players cannot be compared with great players like, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Des Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Larry Gomes, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran...etc. Smith is ok bot Alviro Peteson is an ordinary player. Kallis is one of the best in the game today but he's nowhere near the great Viv Richards. No quality spinner in the side. We can judge the quality of this side after their tour of Pak (UAE)although Pak has no quality batsmen like Javed Miandad, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Zahher Abbas, Haroon Rashid...etc at present.. To be honest , at present SA is much better than the other sides. Do not compare this side with the 1980's mighty WI & 2000's Australians.

Posted by CDUP on (February 18, 2013, 17:39 GMT)

People should stop comparing teams and players to 'the old greats'. It's irrational, since cricket has transformed over the years. For one thing, players are practically raised as cricketers in today's cricketing world, and this brings both positive and negative effects that older players did not experience. Also, cricketing nations are FAR more competitive these days, and instead of seeing this as a good thing and a product of the professionalism attached to the sport, people label the top competing teams as average, since none of them are consistantly whitewashing test series. And don't forget the impact of technology, new rules, 50 over cricket and T20's - these things have changed the sport radically. The old days are gone - and good riddance too. I'd much rather have multiple teams competing for the top spot than know the results for every series in advance (apparently for periods strecthing over 10 years for the 'great' teams - geez, how predictable and boring).

Posted by Beertjie on (February 18, 2013, 17:36 GMT)

That opinion is very debatable @2nd_Slip. Good comments @SurlyCynic on (February 17, 2013, 20:07 GMT). Excellent points @chicko1983 on (February 17, 2013, 23:13 GMT). @Safalicious on (February 18, 2013, 5:11 GMT), the WI unbeaten tag home and away was 15 years! @din7 on (February 18, 2013, 5:41 GMT) I give them 3 years when the young Ozzie leggies will complement their pace battery. Then (when Oz comes to SA again) we'll see how the ageing stars face the young pretenders. Great or very good is pure semantics and subjective. I am in most agreement with your view @screamingeagle on (February 18, 2013, 10:58 GMT)!

Posted by Fareen on (February 18, 2013, 17:35 GMT)

With the bowling line-up South Africa has with Steyn Philander and Morkel, they can destroy any batting line up on even a flattest of pitches. I do think this is a GREAT side, but the problem remains, SA is still 'choking'. I was really nervous when they were needed 1 run with 4 wickets in hand in the 2nd test, because they looked that much nervous.

Posted by dmqi on (February 18, 2013, 16:50 GMT)

SA will have hard time in the middle East against Pakistan for sure. The Pak batsmen, specially the top 5 will score 300 plus in the dead pitch and then Ajaml and Rehman will spin them within 200-225. So, you win within your territories.

Posted by tickcric on (February 18, 2013, 16:36 GMT)

What gave that Australian side the halo, was their dominance in both Tests & ODI cricket. There really was no escape from Australia! Champion teams are feared by the opposition and the fear factor can not develop if you release the pressure in one format of the game. Australia (1999-2007) unlike South Africa or England wanted to steamroll opposition at each and every encounter. They did not see any game as less worthy. Of course this has to do with the bench strength. The current South African team is close to greatness in the Test arena but are still just another good side in ODIs or T20Is. The team appears to be very cautious about how to manage its roster - Kallis, ABD, Steyn, Morkel. May be they need to do it because of the lack of quality bench strength. Having said that South Africa are an excellent side and are only getting better. They have not been defeated in the last 12 series and I think they can get past the Australian figure of 16. They are on course to greatness, IMO.

Posted by tony122 on (February 18, 2013, 16:32 GMT)

SA are so dominant now because of three factors: 1- Many world teams have declined alarmingly. India,Pakistan(over the long term),SL,Aus,WI. Only England has become better.

2- SA pitches are the hardest to bat and are perhaps unique in the world. So their players enjoy a more pronounced home advantage than other teams.

3- T20 and IPL has made teams get out for sub 100 scores much more easily than the past. So that makes opposing teams look better than they are.

All this is not to take anything away from SA. Especially the 2 point. It also shows how good their batsmen are. But it is also a fact their best batsmen be it Kallis or Amla cannot claim to be a dominant all time great batsman. Apart from DeVillers rest of batsmen are not that special. There is no spinner either. To compare them with the all conquering WI of 1978-1990 or Aussies from 1997-2007 is not right.

Posted by tony122 on (February 18, 2013, 16:24 GMT)

@LIlleeandThompson. Wi was not great from 1976-1995. Probably as a Aussie fan(?) you understandably consider 1995 series as the turning point. But really it was a formal confirmation to a long decline. WI were not the same team even as far back as 1989. They also became truly great from 1977-78 onward. So I will put the dominant years as 1978-1990. Aussies from 1997-2007. SA side has too many weak points to be a serious contender for a truly great team. Their batting apart from Amla,Kallis and Devillers to some extent is suspect. Duplessis looks promising but it is too early to judge him definitely. Smith is always a gamble. Alviro Peterson is mediocre. Duminy to my mind is overrated. There is no quality spinner.Pace battery is truly great. Even batsmen like Kallis,Amla or Devillers are not truly dominant in the mold of all time greats.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

Great or not great, the record of SA speaks for itself. What a fantastic team they are and I am sure they will stay the no.1 Test side for years to come.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

@henchart No! actually it does not matter - those that does not recognize the current great form of the SA team is missing something. One day when they do realise that they are missing out I will still be enjoying the cricket SA is dishing up. You know Since the great Ausies were number 1 we were ranked number 2 apart from a bad period where we had a dip for a few months up to where we regained the second place then momentary sat on top back to number 2 and then taking the first place so in my opinion we have constantly been right there on top of the log be it number 2 for a long time (since 2003 when the rankings were first published) so we ARE great were not number one but already at the top for a much longer period than every1 can think about we just step up to the first place last year :)

Posted by henchart on (February 18, 2013, 15:37 GMT)

Does it really matter if SA have managed 12 undefeated series against 16 by Aussies and 29 by WI?Fact is that SA have beaten England in England ,Australia in Australia ,Pakistan in Gulf and at Home besides not losing to India on their previous two tours.What more can the likes of Moonda ask for? Sky?Compare SA 's performance with that of India ,Pakistan and Lanka in Australia and England .Sub Continent teams grovel in England ,SA and Australia whereas SA fares far better in the Sub Continent.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 15:19 GMT)

"except Steyn no one in this SA team is great!"

Really ??????? a certain Jacques Kallis may argue that

Oh and of course SA cant play sping bowling which is why Kallis, Amla and ABDV all average over 50 in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka not bad for cant play spin bowling

Posted by spas on (February 18, 2013, 14:53 GMT)

it is just other teams being average. except Steyn no one in this SA team is great!

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (February 18, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

@FredElliot: I think you do know that India is the BIGGEST country in the subcontinent. Did SA beat India in India ? The answer is - NO. And they certainly are yet to beat SL in SL too. So when I meant, winning in subcontinent, but that I mean beating all major test playing nations of the subcontinent. SA have beaten Pakistan in Pakistan, so they are yet to beat India and SL away. So my requirements still remain unsatisfied. SA, as of now are good but not great by any means.

Posted by Mitcher on (February 18, 2013, 14:15 GMT)

This South Aftican side is fantastic. Far and away the best side in the world at the moment. If we can say that in 10 years' time... Wake me and we'll have a discussion about the truly great Windies/Aussies.

Posted by RichardW on (February 18, 2013, 13:45 GMT)

Yes, the West Indies were a good side, but everybody forgets that their long unbeaten streak was achieved without ever having to play South Africa in any official test series. They may have beaten us in one test in 1992, but we made them work very hard. As a South African, it hurts me to say it, but only the Australian side of the 1995 to 2005 era, should be regarded as a truly great team. South Africa from 1967 onwards could have developed into an unbelievable team but unfortunately for the cricketing world they were not given that chance.

Posted by Romanticstud on (February 18, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

One has to remember, test cricket is played with two teams of 11 players ... South Africa have a formidable batting line up Smith, Petersen, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers, Du Plessis, Elgar, Peterson, Philander, Steyn and Morkel with the likes of Duminy on the injury list to displace the likes of Elgar on return ... Bowling is also very strong with Steyn, Philander, Morkel, Kallis ... but it was proven in innings 1 at Newlands that after the new ball, if they lose a bowler, it is hard for them to exercise their authority ... Hopefully with Morkel not 100%, Kleinveld will restore the rythym in the side ... Peterson in the second innings showed glimpses of a good spin bowler otherwise he is just ordinary ... Imagine if we had Ajmal as our spinner ... we would be unstoppable ... Pakistan may prove worthy opposition at Newlands, lets see what Centurion holds ... maybe another 100 for kallis ...

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (February 18, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

The Windies and the Australians both did not have a 2 in 1 player or an alrounder who averages 56 with the bat and bowls at 135km/h (JH Kallis), a glovesman who averages 50 (AB deVilliers), a bolwer who has a bowling average of 16.81( Philander) and a bowler who can bowl at 140km/h and yet swing the bowl in a manner that terrifies batsmen in the mould of Tendulkar and Ponting (Dale Steyn) and both these teams did not have depth that matches that of Saffers today( there is always a player to put his hand up if the big guns fail to deliver or when one of them is injured,A Peterson did it against Eng,Faf did it against Aus,R Peterson has just done it against Pak). Sooo this rediculous thing of having a spinner in the mould of Warne is really just utter apathy. The "greatest team of all time" , the Windies also did not have that good a spinner nor did the Australian quicks have terrifiying speed as that of the Windies bowlers!!!Enough with the sour grapes people lets just give credit to SA

Posted by gujratwalla on (February 18, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

Undoubtly SA are the best cricket team at the moment but as to to greatness they have a long way to go yet before they can be compared to the West Indies or Australian teams of yesteryears.But there is no doubt that they DO have a great fast bowler in Steyn with Philander who is almost a carbon copy of Malcolm Marshall ,well on the same route.The batsmen are classy but cannot be rated great apart from perhaps Amla.Kallis has been around a long time now and i would rate him highly from his past perfomances but lately he is getting upset by lifting deliveries early on his innings and is on the vane.If SA will maintain their supremacy they will have to replace Kallis,Steyn,Philander with equally good players in the future and also find a genuine spin bowler.I wish them luck and though i am a Pakistani i have great admiration for their positive approach and unrelenting spirit to win.Wish my own countrymen had the same aggressive approach.

Posted by HennopsRiverEnd on (February 18, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

@LillianThomson. Thats the point, the Australian's did not dismiss Faf and they got battered in the last test. And, whrere have you ever seen the whole XI perform and contribute equally in a test match...?!? If Kallis doesn't deliver AB will, if not Philander then Steyn, it's a team sport.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 12:49 GMT)

@Aneek Saleh Mohammad If you look at it that way then I assume that SL is the last frontier we lost in 2006 at their home and have yet to get there since then India - beaten and drawn, Pakistan beaten (in Pakistan) and drawn (UAE) last time we were there.. so SL is the last frontier then we start all over again lol. :) We have beaten the number 1 side, the number 3 side and the number 4 side in 3 consecutive tests. they are now the number 2, 3 and 4 sides lol how low must we go? We are the best currently enjoy the ride - I will be at Centurion hope to see you there ;p)

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

This South African side is the best team in the world currently and by some margin. They have been the best team away from home for many a year and they are busy becoming unbeatable at home as well. They have been very resilient and successful in the sub continent, not always winning series but being more competitive than England and Australia on their travels. People commenting that but for a great knock by Faf in oz or Robin vs Pakistan results could've been different should remember - that is what great teams do (ex. S.Waugh and Gilchrist for Aus) they fight back and find ways to win. SA have won series in all conditions and circumstances (even with injuries to Kallis/Philander/Duminy). I believe they will continue doing this for some years to come. In closing, results determine greatness not individuals. India have Sachin yet team has never reached greatness. Gillespie never reached greatness yet AUS did.

Posted by Balisaf on (February 18, 2013, 12:17 GMT)

The fallacious and common presumption in the debate regarding the 'greatness' of this South African team is that there must necessarily be another "West Indies" and "Australia" to succeed these cricketing dynasties. And so we continually peer over the horizon to see what team will next dawn the mantle of these great teams. I think the sooner we accept that these were unique teams in unique times, the better for everyone. I do hope that this South African team will avoid the following two traps: 1) Bowing to the undue pressure of seeking to emulate these teams 2) Becoming unduly inflated by fickle and excessive adulation. I hope they avoid believing their own press and focus rather on the pursuit of excellence everytime they play and let the history books judge them.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 12:01 GMT)

well, lets see how SA perform in UAE and India later on in the year.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 12:01 GMT)

Once again, everyone keeps saying "they are yet to win in the sub-continent". And we have keep telling you that this is not true.

Posted by Smack-DAT on (February 18, 2013, 12:00 GMT)

What is the point of having pool of GOOD fast bowlers when you cant win in pacer friendly conditions and still PAK fan will boast around about their bowling line up. Even at the time of Wasim,Waqar,Akhtar, PAK never won series in AUS and SA, forget series PAK has not won in AUS for almost two decades now, and not even in WI where even BANGLADESH also managed to win one..SHOWOFFS

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

Hey guys, stop comparing SA to Aussie and Windies of the past. They have played constantly for last years and with the passage of time they will be greater or may be better than Aussie of the past. I am Pakistani but I admire SA because they never show attitude nor proudy like Australian. S Africans always smile and share whatever they got and if someone outplayed them, they appreciate as well like Ajmal. Collectively, they are gutsy and talented bunch more than any other nation. CONGRATES AFRICA!

Posted by Rhygwyn on (February 18, 2013, 11:27 GMT)

@mahjut - I don't think he meant that they must have a spinner to be great. Just that they are not likely to have one. The reason why I would say a team needs to be no.1 for several years to qualify as "great" is because it removes a bit of the randomness so inherent to cricket. For example, India had a ridiculous run of 2 years where they did not play outside the subcontinent and became no.1. It was not a true reflection of their position. England got a decent boost by beaten a highly over-valued (in points) India team 5-0. The difference with SA is they have gotten to no.1 by beating ENG and OZ away from home twice. I guess that is why some people are talking about greatness because that is a magnificent achievement. Sure you might say SA right now, at this very moment, equals the "great" teams of the past but then you have to analyze opposition as well. It becomes more difficult to get a true picture. Whereas if they stay no.1 for say 3-4 years those random factors are taking away.

Posted by Papa_Tango on (February 18, 2013, 11:26 GMT)

@counterstrike1.6: Yes and in those approximate 'sub continent' ONE man almost beat them! And let SA supporters not complain about poor umpiring.....one decision against your team and it was poor umpiring and the number of questionable ones that went their way..... Please let us not start. Th author is not doubting their #1 status: what she is saying is that SA cannot play spin. It may not be necessary to do so in order to win, but Ajmal despite all of SA prep bamboozled them.

Posted by EmileO on (February 18, 2013, 11:17 GMT)

Im a Saffa and in my eyes this is a great team. 3 #1 ranked players in one side at the same time has never been heard of. the best away record and 12 series unbeaten. a TEAM SPIRIT that holds them grounded and the tenacity to rival any great side in history. Show me any side past or present that can rival them.

Our spinner or lack of one is utter nonsense. In SA spinners do not have the pitches or coaches to excell yet they have found themselves places in all formats of our sides. SA spinners has 1 role vital role: Hold an end so that our seemers can attack, and in turn created chances for wickets as batsmen will always target them. chances in test cricket are gold. Our spinners do the job with ball and bat. They play the role they were chosen for.

I await another comment that THIS SA side is only good and not great.

Love the Game and enjoy the Moments of brilliance

Posted by Porky_PigTheToon on (February 18, 2013, 11:06 GMT)

Greame Smith said in post-match presentation - "The conditions reminded me of the subcontinent. "

Exactly ! No wonder, when ball got old, it literally stopped moving and bouncing. That's why Pak batsmen were able to put up some fight. And even on dead track (as per SA standards) like this, SA beat Pak with one bowler short (Morkel), poor umpiring and ordinary spinner R. Peterson. So there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that SA are real #1 side.

But SA need to find a genuine wicket-taking spinner soon or at least someone who could put pressure on batsmen (may be Botha? or Phangiso).

Posted by malepas on (February 18, 2013, 11:06 GMT)

First of all, congrates to SA, yes the best team of this era for now, though Yes not Great,,they gonna found out sooner or latter, may be by this PAK team for sure in UAE. I think 2 things had an impact on this match in 2nd PAK innings, first Misbah dismissal and second that "CHANGE OF BALL" wow what kind of ball was that to replace a 62 over old ball which was hopping and swinging like a 20 over old ball??? If only PAK could mustered another 70/80 runs, this would have been a great finish. I think SA should get all the credit espacialy they way they score runs in second innings was the sign of thier image, had they tried to block, they would have end up on loosing side, thats for sure. As for PAK, WELL DONE for showing fight, they have lots of possitives to take, their selectors should be ashamed to pick people like SARFRAZ & TANVEER, they should not be playing TEST cricket.PAK with young team and unlucky to loose Junaid for this test but give a good fight, WELL DONE.

Posted by Papa_Tango on (February 18, 2013, 11:05 GMT)

@so_so killer: space prevented me to add: inside information provided by imran Tahir, as per firdose Moonda. Kindly check her article on these pages on day two. And yes 50-100 runs and the match could easily have been different. My post was to salute Ajmal The magnificent who despite his context(to use your word) bullied the SA team. That word bothers you so be it: SA could not play him. What context ? This great SA team was giving their wickets while chasing 181? What exactly is the context that you consider responsible for Ajmal's wickets- you did not say. Ms Moonda is right- ignore her at your peril.

Posted by screamingeagle on (February 18, 2013, 10:58 GMT)

SA is No.1 and deserves it. How they measure up to the all time grrats depend on 1. Bench strength (do they have the personnel to replace Kallis etc?)2. Can they dominate in all conditions. 3. Do they have the same quality of opposing teams to contend with (like old WI had to) These are for later, just enjoy the current crop. Amla Steyn et al and refrain from comparision for now. Cricket is fickle, who knows what the next few series might bring? India should be thrashed in SA(I am from India, that is just a factual observation), however the series in the SC might prove interesting.

Posted by Protears on (February 18, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

Whenever I see a LillianThomson post I start to cringe.

a) If Australia got Faf out they would have won, well they didn't and the point is moot, but if anything suggests a lot about the mental integrity of this team.

b) What is wrong with Morkel, Faf, Elgar, Duminy, Petersen and the emerging talent. Newsflash not everyone just walks in and becomes a star overnight and I see nothing wrong with those players so again a moot point.

c) you listed contributors, Kallis took wickets and scored a 50 in this series, Smith has a 50 and starts in this series, Robin Peterson has a 5 wicket match haul and a 50+ score. Morne has not been at his best but takes wickets. The marquee of a good team is non-reliance on the regulars but the collective effort when needed, this was clearly shown in the Newlands test coming from behind to win in tough conditions.

FYI nobody in the setup claimed we are the greatest, so again moot point or media fud.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 10:19 GMT)

@Roy Jones Yes I totally agree it is perspective even comparing players to each other is all perspective ..ie..I never liked Shane Warne because he were as far as I were concerned arrogant and expected every ball he bowled against SA as a potential wicket even if not bowled correctly (leg side for LBW) and SOMETIMES he got away with it (DRS would not allow him those wickets). I would consider Murali as a better spinner. However if you talk to any Australian supporter they would totally disagree with me. Same with Dale Steyn it will be an open debate if I am to compare AD with DS... heck not even I will be able to make up my mind AD played FOR the franchise I support and DS don't. So I will be biased to take AD's side for good measure - he at least did do the reverse swing and I am sure he will teach Dale since he is the bowling trainer for SA. Lastly Ajmal may be good or great he is 36 years old and closer to his sell by date than Dale.... Yet another topic lol .. time will tell

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

SA is a really really good side. Although they are not as feared as the windies of the 80s but still they can easily be compared to the aussies of the 90s. 3 world class bowlders, the world's best allrounder, the world's best wicket-keeper batsman and such long depth in batting. This team is just too awesome. The real test will come when they play in sub-continental pitches. If they can win in India, SL and Pak, then there is no denying their status as a GREAT side.

Posted by NixNixon on (February 18, 2013, 10:00 GMT)

I have heard a 1001 excuses as to why SA apparently are not a great side. People keep saying they are beatable but none has been able to beat them, so for how long are you gonna keep saying that. And writing resilient performances like faf and peterson's innings off is just pure jealousy, because those were perfromances under pressure to get SA back into the game, another hallmark of a great time. I didnot see PAK or AUS pull off something like that to save their arses when they were in trouble. SA creates pressure which the other teams cannot deal with.

Someone commented on the eve of day one of the 2nd test against PAK when SA was something like 105 for 5 that SA will crumble under pressure BWHAHAHA!

Give credit were credit is due, the rest of you are just jealous!

Posted by gerrardl on (February 18, 2013, 9:56 GMT)

So many bitter comments about this South African side. Mostly by supporters from nations they have beaten recently. I'm English and I tell you what they truly outplayed us in all departments last year. ALL YOU CAN DO IS COMPARE THE TWO TEAMS ON THE FIELD. And truth be told, the South Africans have been better than any of the opposition they faced in the last 2 years. Therefore they are the best in the world - by some distance too. Australia were not good enough when it mattered, England were not good enough at all, Pakistan and NZ, well... different leagues. South Africas results prove them to be the best in the world today. Who cares if they live up to the Windies of the 80s or Aussies of the 90s/00s. Until someone beats them - which hasnt happened for a LONG time - they will remain the best. Stop with the bitter comments and appreciate the excellent cricket we get to watch when the Steyn's Amla's and Vern's of this world put their talents on show for the same team. I for one love it!

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 9:54 GMT)

It makes me laugh to read the comments regarding what would have happened had this person or that got out or not..etc..what nonsense, you could say that about every sport and game in the world. What if Donald had run in 99 WC, knocked aussie out and then sa went on to win final? Or if it hadn't have rained in 92 WC semi? Or what if Warne's ball of the century had turned a cm more and missed the stumps? The result is the only thing that ppl can judge, win or lose, as simple as that. That is what sport is all about, on such small things does it and history turn!

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 18, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

@Muhammad Moosa: great post! I'd beg to differ on one minor point: the 1953 England side did have a fine all-rounder: Trevor Bailey. Without his & Willie Watson's obstinate batting at Lord's that year, it's almost certain that Hutton's side that went to Oz in 1954 would have still been waiting to reclaim the Ashes (last held in 1933) as the '53 series would have finished 1-1. Bailey's figures aren't remarkable but his presence was necessary for the balance of the side. All in all, the need to have all the bases covered (including an all-rounder & a quality spinner) isn't necessary. A side can sweep all before them without that attention to the classic recipe - all they have to do is to beat the opposition of the day, home & away, over a minumum of four years to achieve greatness. With SA clearly the best around at the moment, it is up to England & possibly Australia (very remotely, India?) to come up with a side that can beat them. No easy task, but not utterly impossible, I think. BW

Posted by binu.emiliya on (February 18, 2013, 9:46 GMT)

Yes SA are excellent but not great...and Pakisthan are not very bad,Good fight by Yunis,Shafiq,Azhar,Misbah,Sayeed Ajamal

Posted by Vleis on (February 18, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

@ LillianT: You say, "this series has been Amla, de Villiers, Steyn and Philander v Pakistan." You're forgetting about Smith, Kallis and the man of the match yesterday, Peterson. Also, only one with an anemic cricket knowledge expects every player to perform well in just two tests. When some fail, others must pick up the slack - ask Steve Waugh.

You say, "Peterson, Morkel, du Plessis and Elgar will need to be replaced by superior players. " Let's deal with each player individually: - du Plessis??? You blame him for costing Aus the series v SA, but you want him out of the SA team. It must be his poor average of 75 Hahaha - Morkel may not be as good as Steyn & Philander, but he's a fantastic bowler to have at first change. Also, Morkel's pace and bounce 'buy' wickets for his teammates, much like Statham and Trueman. - Peterson is not a Warne, but he's done very well thus far...and there IS only one Warne. - Elgar's filled in OK thus far (avg 37), but will be replaced by Duminy

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 9:16 GMT)

@owaisvirani So if I read your comment correctly the Ausies played with a Wicket keeper batsman in Adam Craig Gilchrist so they played with 12 men on the field? WOW small wonder they were considered gr8 they had an extra man on the field with nobody the wiser so if I look at it correctly you say with Kallis (Batsman and bowler), Peterson (batsman and bowler), Philander (batsman and bowler), ABdV (Batsman and keeper) and in the near future when Duminy (Batsman and bowler) returns SA will have effectively 16 players on the field lol a great team indeed, just hope they book extra rooms at the hotels where they stay during the tests else they might be undercharged or overcharged for the extra occupation

Posted by owaisvirani on (February 18, 2013, 8:44 GMT)

South African side is very good as compared to other teams but the difference is minimal. A wicket of Faf by Australia or Peterson by Pakistan would have changed the whole scenario and this article would not have been written. In order to compare South Africa with the West Indian side of 1980's they have a lot to do in test. Further there performance in ODIs and International Tournaments is not where near to compare with WI or Australia. So a long way to go for South Africa and considering they are effectively playing with 13 players (An allrounder of Kallis's ability and Keeper with batting abilities as good as De Villiers) against other teams with 11 players cannot last much longer.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 8:29 GMT)

@samroy so strictly spoken thus far not even the gr8 Ausies cannot be mentioned in the same breath as the Windies All hail the Windies the greatest test team ever :) till there is a 15 year or longer period of dominance the Windies is tops. The bit on the downside however is they are considered as todays minnows lol. May I put it into another perspective any win against the Windies and/(or Ausies) of today is still considered a feat and accomplishment

Posted by FredElliot on (February 18, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster "They are yet to win in the sub continent which to me is a big deal on how great a team truly is"

South Africa beat Pakistan in Pakistan in 2007/8. So there you are - they satisfy your requirements.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

It is all about perspective. Yes the greatest two sides are WI 76-95 and Aus 96-06, but some sides are considered great because of what they achieved over a short time and because of how they played and who was in their team. Here I think of the 48 Aus, 50 WI, 69 SA etc. I think since 07 this side has done enough to earn the epithet "great". In that time they have lost only one series. They have at least 6 players who will be regarded as "great" and perhaps a few more whose time is yet to come. They may not be a "complete" side, yes they may be dominated at times by great players (think Pietersen, Clarke, Ajmal) and they may even lose a few matches. However for 6 or 7 years they have travelled the world and forged a truly great record often with their backs against the ropes and the have done it as team with everyone contributing. I look forward to the next few years where hopefully they will complete their legacy and silence their doubters.

Posted by Mitcher on (February 18, 2013, 8:06 GMT)

@John Black: Except for that time the great Aussie side DID win in India. But hey, don't let the truth get in the way. As for belittling the great Windies for not playing in Sth Africa. Laughable... Other than the fact they had no control over the fact, I think anyone with a modicum of knowledge about what made that team so incredible, would know they would have thrived in those conditions.

Posted by Soso_killer on (February 18, 2013, 8:02 GMT)

@Papa_Tango "Ajmal bullied" SA? Really then how come they won comfortably in 4 days? Scoring at more than 4 to the over. In the 1st innings he was impressive for sure, in the 2nd innings you have to look at the context of his wickets. What inside information did I. Tahir give SA?

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 7:59 GMT)

they are a complete package. they can handle spin. ok not fully but up to some extent. Onlything if they can find a great spinner.

Posted by Sports4Youth on (February 18, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/records/bowling/most_wickets_career.html?id=7393;type=series

In the series record provided above Gul is languishing at the 6th position behind Hafeez & Petersen. What kind of a spearhead is he ? Series after series has has been so dissapointing. When will the PCB learn to move on ? In the last 2 years Junaid has been very impressive. Irfan was impressive in the only opportunity he got. If Sadaf & Rahat are provided resonable opportunities they will definately prove to be better than Gul. Just take the next step. Since too long Ajmal has been the lone warrior without any help from the pace department. Time to revamp the pace department. Junaid, Irfan, Sadaf & Rahat should be the pacers in the squad and Ajmal & A.Rehman should be the spinners with Hafeez providing good support.

.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

The "writer" of this piece has failed to realise that S.A have now become a great team.No great test team,none,has ever had every base covered,ever.The closest might have been the 1948 Australians.Yet what made these teams great were a defining factor. The following were the great test teams post war to 1948-The great Aussies defined by Bradman,Lindwall and Miller.(Spinners were not great) The 1953 English-Bedser,Trueman,Statham,Laker and Lock,Hutton (No great all rounder) The 1960's S.A -Pollocks,Procter.Richards,Barlow,Goddard (spinner) The 74 Aussies-Lillee,Thommo,Chappels (spinner) The Windies of the 70's/80's -Viv.Marshall.Garner,Holding,Lloyd (Long tail,no all rounder,no spinner) Aussies of 90's/00--Waugh,Hayden,Gilly,Warne,Mcgrath,Ponting (all rounder) S.A current-Smith,Amla,A.B,Steyn,Morkel,Philander (spiinner)

What defines this S.A team is having amongst the strongest batting line ups in history as well as arguably the best new ball bowling pairing ever.Cant have everything!

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 7:48 GMT)

Give credit where its due, this South African team is one of the best of all time, look at their averages for both bowlers and batman, Kallis, Dale and Amla would play in any team of all time....The Australian team could never win in India, West Indies never played in South Africa so lets put things into perspective....

Posted by cric_gates on (February 18, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

SA deserve to be no 1.They not only just have best bowling attack but feilding n batting are good too.they have good openers in smith n piterson. Then two wall comes amla n kallis.Then followed by two talented playerd( AB and FAf).SA is very lucky to have steyn in their bolwer atack who always bolws with fire.

Posted by Sports4Youth on (February 18, 2013, 7:28 GMT)

The pitches and conditions in SA are supposed to be pace friendly. The SA bowlers have wrecked havoc against the Pakistani batsmen. Barring a few exception the Pakistani batsmen have been unable to occupy the crease for more than 10-15 mins each. However, the same cannot be said about the Pakistani pacers.

In the two matches so far The pick of the pakistani bowlers has been AJMAL with 11 wickets at an avg 26.27.

The next best is HAFEEZ with 5 wickets @ 16.60.

Mohammed IRFAN had an impressive debut with his pace, bounce, accuracy & economy. Though Irfan got only 3 wickets @ 40.

Umar GUL was the usual self taking 5 wickets @ 46.90 (avg) and having the poor economy even in low scoring games. Especially in the 2nd innings he was giving away the runs thick and fast. IF on such seamer friendly wickets Gul's performace is going to be so PATHETIC then I do not know what to expect of him on flatter wickets. His carreer graph and avg is declining fast. He has to be done away with.

.

Posted by Rahulbose on (February 18, 2013, 7:20 GMT)

Greatness is not exclusively reserved for sustained excellence. In sport it can be achieved in one performance. This SA side is a great one, how long they can maintain this level might be suspect but it does not change what they are doing today.

Posted by Porky_PigTheToon on (February 18, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

Congratulations to SA for winning the series. Pak tried hard but SA showed again why they are #1. I was amazed to see Ajmal so happy/ relived after getting his 10th wicket of the match when Pak was on the verge of losing the match and the series. It seemed he was playing for his personal milestone not team's win. He surely is a Great Bowler but not a match winner. #InspiredFromSRTBashers

Posted by SAFan11 on (February 18, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

Good not great is very accurate. They will have to stay at the top for at least 5 years before we consider greatness.... I cant believe they have a team song, that is really cheesy.

Posted by stormer1980 on (February 18, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

I'm a proudly Saffa fan and we might not be great just yet ... but we certainly getting there .. Please answer me this , What warrants a great team ? A team who struck fear into players with there bowlers , a Team who had Shane Warne ? NO ... a great team is a team who overcomes the odds , doesn't matter where they play or who is in the squad .. and a team that is consistant .. I think SA covers that ! ...Admittedly , we have to go to the sub continent and win and this will surely close this debate ... SA has been consistant .. @ LILLIAN THOMPSON .. stop crying about a test where if this or if that .. IT DIDN'T HAPPEN AND WE BEAT YOU IN YOUR BACK YARD, that is what great teams do , they win when it matters , the individuals stand up and make a stand for the team ... We struggled against spin on a flat pitch but Ajmal should also be respected ... !

Posted by Protears on (February 18, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

Who ever said we were a great team, we havent even been a year at the top and the greatness tag is going around.

Just some points to address; The first is AB De Villiers as a Wicketkeeper, he averages 47.26 in 13 matches as a keeper, with 4 50s and 2 100s which is only marginally down on his career 50.42 average. His keeping is vastly improved and his batting is hardly affected.

As for the bowling, Peterson's stats since coming back in the Perth test makes very pleasent reading. He has done the job when asked to do one often on unsupporting tracks. The only wicket he got help from was at PE against NZ where he took plenty for nothing albeit against NZ(A side that beat Australia and a series in SL so maybe not all that bad). Robin Peterson doesnt need to be a Warne because the rest make him effective.

Posted by SamRoy on (February 18, 2013, 6:24 GMT)

@Safalicious Mate, please do not comment if you do not know your cricket. West Indies were unbeaten in a series for 15 years. Not 5, not 10 but 15. From 1980 to 1995. Ok. The only time it was threatened was against Pakistan in 1987-88 (where some bad umpiring did rob Pakistan of a deserving series victory. WI got back what they deserved in 1989-90 in NZ where some bad umpiring robbed them of a series victory in NZ)

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 18, 2013, 6:20 GMT)

This debate is getting tiresome and I urge all saffa fans like myself to just let time tell. If this team can keep doing what its doing now for another 3 years then we have a team thats 10 years undeated on the road and finally could be labelled as one of the greats. SA does already have the greatest cricketer to ever play the game - King Kallis.

Posted by getsetgopk on (February 18, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

SA is a very good team in their home conditions or close to home conditions but I dont see them beating Pakistan in UAE. Infact I dont see any team beating Pakistan in their adopted home of UAE. So until that time that they get at least one quality spinner that can challenge oppositions on slow tracks, SA, for me will remain a very good team but not quite great.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 6:12 GMT)

Just 1 thing I want to say there is too many if's and would haves in some comments - ie.. IF faf were bowled out at Adelaide SA would have lost - please ladies and gentlemen lets not dwell on what COULD have, SHOULD have, WOULD have and IF this or IF that... Those tests are done and dusted recorded and had been taken into consideration . IT DID NOT HAPPEN SO ALL IF'S does not count towards the end result. Get over it and move on please. IF Misbah ticked the runs over in the last test innings they COULD have scored more than a 200 run lead and SHOULD have had SA on a tight rope and COULD have bowled SA out in the last innings and SURELY WOULD have won the test ... REDICULOUS lol it did not happen and hindsight is only lessons for the future -IF you are inclined to learn from them

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 5:53 GMT)

Pakistan's bowling line up for next game should be Junaid Khan, Irfan, Ajmal, Rehman. A little support to Ajmal on the end could win game for Pakistan.

Posted by crashed on (February 18, 2013, 5:49 GMT)

I do not want to compare the current SA team to those WI or Ausie teams of yesteryear yet 2 reasons 1. SA just came into the number 1 spot last year and need time to go a few more years to achieve what those 2 teams did at their day which is PAST. Their reign is over and everybody can say well they reigned since that time to a certain period and then they were DONE AND DUSTED. and that is my 2nd point SA is building and the fact that they can still improve on their performance is great but they are not done and dusted yet they are at the BEGINNING stage of what seems like an extended period. So comparing them now is premature and rather silly. Yes SA is the best and that for me is for now good enough. But taking into consideration that we are 4 test series wins away from the Ausie run of 16 wins in a row is good to know and an achievement in itself. Compare timelines do so by all means but keep all out comparisons to when SA is done and dusted or proven better till then chill :)

Posted by din7 on (February 18, 2013, 5:41 GMT)

SA currently deserves to be world no1 test side, but that apart they are not near aus or wi great sides...they dont have a spinner...leave alone world class..their pace battery is currently best, but they dont have any reserves..if 2 of them gets injured they will certainly lose that test and mark my words they are going to lose in UAE( though not white wash) it might be 2-1...ajmal will be too much for them. And what abt kallis ...there's no replacement, they are going to suffer when kallis retires. ..truth is they currently deserve to no1 and they shld have been no1.. 2 to 3 yrs earlier with that awesome home and away record but future isnt that great for this SA team..they will be no1..in next 18 mnths or so..thats it!

Posted by BaasHerman on (February 18, 2013, 5:20 GMT)

@LillianThomson - Nothing wrong with du Plessis being in the SA side. Elgar will be replaced as soon as JP Duminy is fit again. AB de Villiers will keep until Quinton de Kock is ready to play test cricket which might be within the next three years. De Kock is also an opening batsmen that has scored a lot of runs in the local comps as a 19 and 20 year old kid the past two seasons. Most "experts" in SA will say the same thing about the young lad!

BUT, I do agree with you on the spinner issue.. SA needs a quality spinner!! Where he will come from nobody knows!!

Posted by Safalicious on (February 18, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

Did the Windies or the Aussies have an undefeated tag on the road for 7 years? Did they have a keeper that is ranked in the top 5 batsmen in the world? Did they have an allrounder whose batting average is among the top 5 of batsmen scoring over 6000 runs, and bowling recently to an average of 23. Did they have 2 bowlers with a strike rate hovering around 40, placing them in the top 5 all time bowlers in terms of strike rate. Did either of those teams have a bowler with an average below 17? At present, 4 batsmen average over 50 while a 5th averages 49.

You cannot remember Bradman for his great innings without remembering his penchant for ducks. Every great team has tasted defeat, or been skittled for little, but the sum of their achievements have been great. The sum of the SA achievements have been great over the last 7 years, and they are tryuely dominating at the moment and the forseeable future.

To them their due.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (February 18, 2013, 5:09 GMT)

The 'essence' of greatness comes from winning in EVERY condition around the world. Being consistent for a long period of time, preferably a decade or more. Gaining respect from your opposition by being good both on and off the field etc. SA have done well to become the no.1 test team BUT they have NOT done anything to show me they are great. They are yet to win in the sub continent which to me is a big deal on how great a team truly is. England did that recently by winning in India. So for now that box is checked for them. Australia are next but I cannot see them beating a transitional Indian team. So it's up to SA to conquer the subcontinent. If they do that and continue to win at home, then they are on 'their way'. To become a great team they will have to remain no.1 for the next 5 years minimum. Still, SA are a good team in all formats minus the choking.

Posted by IndiaChampspakchumps on (February 18, 2013, 4:38 GMT)

SA are a good side, not a great one. They are over- on Dale Steyn and do not have a spinner. They may never find a Warne, but they should try to find someone who can be effective in Asian conditions. England have greater bowling depth and will recapture the No.1 ranking soon. SA are a good side, no doubt, but their strength has been exaggerated by poor teams like pakisntan.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 3:37 GMT)

Another thing worth considering is that great isn't just in the final list of wins and losses, but in the quality of the play on the field. The test in Adelaide might only be recorded as a draw, but South Africa's rearguard effort there was truly great cricket. Add in more matches like this defeat of Pakistan, and no matter what history finally ends up saying about this side, right now we can say that this team is playing great Test cricket.

Posted by SamRoy on (February 18, 2013, 2:55 GMT)

Agree with @Atif Yousuf completely. They need to learn how to take wickets with the old ball and also they need a threatening spinner. Short of that they are not a great side though a very good one.

Posted by Simoc on (February 18, 2013, 1:52 GMT)

Strange memory you have SCynic. The third test between Oz and SA was played in Perth which would favour South Africa more than any other pitch in world cricket. Also there is a stack of South Africans live there so a home away from home game. I'm sure you wouldn't remember that SA won easily. Looking at other teams there aren't to many players from any other teams that would make this SA team. Maybe Cook, Clarke, Ajmal. That would be it.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 1:35 GMT)

You say SA don't have an equivalent of Warne, but did the ozzies have an equivalent of Kallis? !!!! you cant have a perfect team with all the best in one. It is ultimately the team effort which wins you the game. In a given years, if SA continue to play better, they will better the likes of windies and ozzies !!!

Posted by Photoelectric on (February 18, 2013, 1:26 GMT)

This SA attack is one of the best I think I have seen a while, Vernon was the best rookie I had seen when he started and is no longer a rookie!.. Always chewing the gum looking like a threat. If a another player comes along who can spin the ball then this would be hell on earth for all Test batsman who don't play for SA.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (February 18, 2013, 0:10 GMT)

I'm not sure I agree. They're not great yet, but for reasons different to those mentioned. Australia never had a great all rounder such as Kallis, and the West Indies never had a great spinner either. As much as we can about how great their pace bowlers were, they played in an era favourable to bowlers. - both in terms of the pitches and the rules. They never had to contend with small outfields and bouncer rules, for example. Nope, what I believe is stopping SA from creating that aura of dominance is that they still sometimes lack the killer instinct which prevents them from going for the jugular when they should. Despite wrapping up matches within 5 days, they've still taken their foot off the pedal instead of ramming home the advantage and asserting themselves on the opposition. Still, 11 series without a loss, and 3 behind the Aussies, is nothing to scoff at.

Posted by Sayedgee on (February 18, 2013, 0:03 GMT)

Come'on ESPN Cricinfo, with millions of cricket followers we need a Pakistani commentator to report on a test series of this importance. This is the epic series for their test follower and surely you can do a better job then this!

Posted by whocareswhowins on (February 17, 2013, 23:50 GMT)

It was a good Test match. Pakistan are a good team, and put up a tough fight (they were under-prepared going into the 1st Test). But, there's no doubting that this SA side are very very good. I think we should not be getting into discussions about 'greatness' yet. We should give them their due, and let all SA enjoy their huge success. Well played, again, SA !!

Posted by chicko1983 on (February 17, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

If you go just on unbeaten series then its easy to compare 12 straight to 16 straight. What isnt shown in that statistic is that Australia had a win to loss ratio of 3.8 between the years 1995 and 2007. South Africa has a win to loss ratio of 2.0 in the last 7 years. And in those 12 years, Australia lost only 3 series (with one of them being a 5 test series in England which would have been drawn if only 3 matches) and whitewashed about 20 series. Also, look at the winning streaks. Australia doing 16 wins straight twice. Next best was WI with 12. An unbeaten series is one thing, but absolute domination of the opposition for more than 10 years, in both formats, is another thing altogether and an area of the sport which this SA team doesnt hold a candle to the great Aussie teams.

Posted by pronoysircar on (February 17, 2013, 23:10 GMT)

And that humbleness is something that is reflected in this post as well. Compared to a rather embarrassing post by George Dobell , http://www.espncricinfo.com/greatestteams/content/story/538999.html , where he actually went ahead and bracketed the then England side (who were the number one side at the time he wrote the article) among the five greatest test sides of all time, shortly before England were crushed in UAE and at home, I find this article to be refreshing, even if it is underselling this Protea side a bit. If one has to err, it is always dangerous to err on the side of hubris.

Posted by Soso_killer on (February 17, 2013, 23:08 GMT)

To be honest i dont care too much if this team one day gets considered to be great or not. I am just proud of my country. For a nation that has just returned from isolation barely 20 years ago, i can not ask for more. South Africa needs just 2 more victories to complete 100 hundred wins since readmission. The only teams to have achieved 100 victories since 1990 are Australia 150 wins from 256 matches. England 101 from 273 matches. South Africa has 98 at the moment from just 204 matches. India has 72 from 207, Pakistan 73 from 187.

Posted by mahjut on (February 17, 2013, 22:40 GMT)

Tests_the_best ... not sure your 'perspective' would convince the believers (and there are some). SA ("the most impressive result") was indeed the most impressive of the three whitewashes you mention [India was the Asian team to beat as they batted deep], but it wasn't excessively impressive as SA were not a great batting side at the time and were still getting over Cronje and coming to terms with balancing teams with the future in mind [the future is now] ... so, the fact that you point to it being the most impressive isn't a clincher by any stretch. But the Oz side were great ... this side is #1 and more impressive by the game

Posted by Surajdon9 on (February 17, 2013, 22:33 GMT)

Stat Alert: Vernon Darryl Philander Need to take 13 or More wicket in 3rd test to equal world record of fastest 100 Test Match wicket with George Alfred Lohmann on the basis of no. of game played.All the best Vernon what a Bowler !!!!!!!!!

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 22:28 GMT)

I m Pakistani but my fav team is South Africa.

Ab playing as wk batsman+ Robin playing as all rounder batsman+ presence of Kallis no team can beat SA. Good thinking by kristen+smith+ selectors. Hats off SA team. Great , balanced and complete team.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (February 17, 2013, 22:15 GMT)

Yup. Since the great Aus team was dismantled, this SA team seems to be the first team to be not only just the #1 ranked team but also the true #1 team. They are significantly strong in batting, bowling n fielding both home and away and in all conditions and have series wins to show for it.

Posted by IAS2009 on (February 17, 2013, 22:05 GMT)

SA had to sweat a lot beating a very weak Pakistan team with almost no batsman other thank YK who have played test around the world. It is a good SA team far far away from WI and aussies though. SA has advantage because Aus, Pak, India NZ all in rebuilding stage only worthy opponent could be England but they did not do good, If Pakistan have chose to use more spinner friendly wicket in UAE they could have beaten SA. WI were all time greats during their time AUS, ENG, NZ and to some extent Pakistan were very good test teams, Pakistan was the only team who gave WI hard away and at home. SA was very lucky to survive in Australia last tour they could have easily lost first 2 test matches not a sight for great team at this moment.

Posted by Papa_Tango on (February 17, 2013, 22:02 GMT)

First class team, first class series win. However, SA fans and journos who are waxing eloquent and singing rapturous of SA cricket, ignoring this aricle's author, do so at their peril. On a wicket like this, against a pakistan side whose tremendous deficiencies are all there to see, the difference between the two was what anywhere between another 50-100 runs? That is not a lot for a side that wants to make history. Where I do not agree with the author is that she wants a warne. Sorry: given the team, facilities, system, opportunities under which he operates, SA should desire an Ajmal, who single handedly bullied yes bullied SA. Warne in my opinion without the side the team, facilities, et al would not have been as good- MY opinion, kindly refrain from flame wars. Afterall his performance was despite what imran Tahir was able to reveal to SA.

Salute to the magnificent Saeed Ajmal.

Those who wish to bring up swann, well, where it matters in head to head, it was historical in the UAE.

Posted by Stos on (February 17, 2013, 22:01 GMT)

"So how close are South Africa to establishing their reign as an era? The mighty West Indies went 29 series without defeat. The closest anybody came to that was Australia, who did not lose for 16 series. South Africa just completed their 12th without losing. It puts into perspective how much more there is to achieve before they can consider themselves among the all-time greats.": 4 series? In any case, this seems a somewhat strange time to make the pronouncement, given that they just achieved a series win against a side most others have struggled to beat, but if it's not a comment on their quality, but only on the amount of time that they've dominated, then it's not really clear why it would have merited an article.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (February 17, 2013, 22:01 GMT)

Surely the only question about quality is whether this side is a good as the Springboks of 1969/70 ? Maybe also whether the attack is as good as the Springboks of late 1950's ?

Posted by kc69 on (February 17, 2013, 22:00 GMT)

@Roy Jones:Clever comment because from Jan 2006 to Dec 2006 SA has lost 3 test series out of 4.Amongst which has 2 series loss was against Aussies which includes a whitewash at home turf mate.Nonetheless SA are #1 team as of now compared to rest of the teams.

Posted by mahjut on (February 17, 2013, 21:54 GMT)

Staalburger ... what if it is thought that their due is to be recognized as great!? ... as far as the old ball is concerned... seriously, you cannot judge on the last match you watched or every winning team would be great (or not). In any case SA took 7 wickets with the old ball in the second innings and although an attacking spinner would be nice, it's not essential to be a great team!

Posted by just_Test_lover on (February 17, 2013, 21:50 GMT)

This is an amazing test side and should be arguably equal to the West Indies and Australian Teams. I would fair bet that todays Protea team is more complete than the West Indies and Australian teams of their day.

Warne was a great bowler among the batsmen of then. These are great bowlers among great batsmen of today. SA have played against the likes of Hussey, Ponting, KP, Trott, Swan etc and won. We have been against the rope and pulled ourselves out. SA of 2008- 2013 is the best SA team to have played test. Though it is 20 years of hard work by the prior SA teams that have lead to this.

If the UAE is a measure, well in 2011 they laid a flat pitch that was poor and allowed no help to any bowler yet a spinner. I rate from watching PAK play spin today they be worried if it span at home.

India should play with DRS and they will see how fair appealing for everything is. DRS may not be correct but it sure beats screaming spinners every ball.

Posted by kc69 on (February 17, 2013, 21:40 GMT)

I still believe they are the greatest of all,but still Spin bowling(Quality SA Spinners and facing Quality spin) is still a department that they need to work on a little.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 21:14 GMT)

They have to learn how to bowl with the old ball and have an attaching spinner. Short of that they will not be as great as the Australians.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 21:01 GMT)

Since Dec 2006. If I'm not mistaken SA's series tally is played 23, won 15, drawn 7, lost 1. If that's not great then some people certainly are demanding! Well done to the Proteas, good to win a great contest against battling opponents.

Posted by mahjut on (February 17, 2013, 20:58 GMT)

Firdose ... I'm not sure about this one! The SA attack offers lots (OZ had Warne but they didn't have Kallis ... plus, Oz were considered great before eventually getting a win in India ... after they'd peaked). Of course SA could throw in de Lange, and bench Vern, simply to add pace - but that would be ludicrous. Never has batting been as easy as it is these days and this attack still take 20 wickets when others can't (without suffering the opposite ignomony, thanks to the batting depth).

If I were to argue that this SA team were not great it would be on the basis that SA still have to beat teams on the field ... I didn't see the Windies at work but watched Oz throughout their reign and everyone who played them were well beaten long before the first ball of any series had been bowled (ONLY India at home felt they had a chance). ... i guess there's something in that!

Posted by Spelele on (February 17, 2013, 20:25 GMT)

There isn't too much of a difference between 12 and 16 series without a loss. This SA side is very close to the Aus side that ruled the world; mark my words!

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 20:23 GMT)

This team is certainly one of the best teams ever, they have an excellent bowling attack which ensures they get breakthroughs when it matters the most. The batting is solid with Amla and Kallis leading the top order and de Villiers and Faf du Plessis showing extreme patience during hard times. Their only worry is spin as Peterson isn't a top class spinner and the experiment with Imran Tahir didn't work out that well. Nevertheless, they can be surely counted as one of the best teams ever

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 20:17 GMT)

Are they ever going to be Worthy ? Seems to me everytime they win a match and the "worthy" topic comes up someone finds another reason to say no.... Shane warne was good, but he is one guy in a whole team, Australia did not have a kallis and we dont have a warne ... You cannot compare the two by saying SA lacks spinners of warne's quality. If you havnt noticed we dont really have spinner pitches in this country, hence we dont produce the same quality spinners, same as sub continent teams dont produce our quality pace attack. You have to really stop comparing player to player and just look plainly at the stats. If you havnt noticed this was another test they wrapped up in less than 5 days, how many of those have we seen now ? Also keep in mind we are without our specialist off spin/batsman JP Dumminy, who these conditions would have favoured as well. SA is on top and by the looks of it i can see them staying there for a while, and the australia unbeaten record is not far off for SA...

Posted by SurlyCynic on (February 17, 2013, 20:07 GMT)

It's true, SA aren't in the same category as the great Aussie and Windies sides, primarily because they don't have the equivalent of a Warne who was the difference for the Aussies (Windies were in a different era for bowling and had incredible fast bowlers).

But, being unbeaten away from home for 7 years is a great achievement in this era where teams tend to be strong at home. It's only going to get harder though, even England and Aus tried flat tracks to negate the SA seamers, and I think the UAE will turn a lot more than the last trip! On the last tour to India SA went ahead in the series with a great performance in Nagpur, but I'm sure Mr Dhoni has already placed orders for some 'bunsen burners' for next time.

So we should enjoy this great run of performances as it's only going to get harder. Was an enjoyable test match anyway, and watching AB and Amla compete with Ajmal is fascinating. Pakistan are a good team to watch.

Posted by Paulk on (February 17, 2013, 20:02 GMT)

For now it is enough that this SA team is being mentioned in the same sentences as those two legendary teams.

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (February 17, 2013, 20:01 GMT)

Yes there is no Warne in SA's attack but Steyn,Morkel and Philander form a far better partnership than that of Lee,Gillespie and McGrath.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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