Business as usual for superb South Africa
South Africa completed their first series sweep in contests of more than three Tests since 1998-99 by beating Pakistan 3-nil. They ensured the Test mace and the No.1 ranking will remain with them throughout the winter with their next assignment also against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. They only had one one-century maker in their ranks but three standout bowlers as they overpowered their opposition.
AB de Villiers 3 Tests, 352 runs @ 88.00, 2 hundreds, 1 fifty, 17 catches After a battle to prove he is capable and his body able enough to handle the dual role of batting in the top five and wicketkeeping, AB de Villiers finally seems to have won. He was the leading run-scorer in the series and the only South African to reach a hundred as he hit the final nail in Pakistan's coffin in both Johannesburg and Centurion. De Villiers has the luxury of coming in when a platform is already laid and his job is to take off from it. With a classy and innovative range of strokes he managed exactly that. He was kept in the field for minimal amounts of time, thanks to the potency of the pace attack and pounced on the 17 chances they created for him. To add to the feathers in his cap, he let through just nine byes.
Dale Steyn 3 Tests, 20 wickets @ 12.90 In his own backyard, Dale Steyn had a summer to remember. He led the attack with a poisoned tip as he so often does and caused trouble for Pakistan's batsmen every time the stepped onto the field, with pace and movement that they were not able to content with. At the Wanderers, he was merciless, taking a career-best 6 for 8 as South Africa bowled a team out for under 50 for the third time in 14 months. Another five-for saw Steyn end the Johannesburg match with 11 scalps. He kept the pressure on at both Newlands and Centurion and allowed the rest of the attack to blossom too.
Vernon Philander 3 Tests, 15 wickets @ 15.80, 97 runs @ 32.33, 1 fifty There are few genuine allrounders in Test cricket currently and Vernon Philander is staking a claim to join their ranks. In the bowling department, he was his usual self and took his wickets through seam movement and discipline. Philander enjoyed a ninth career five-wicket haul at his home ground, Newlands, and was successful upcountry as well. The element of his success that may have surprised was his contribution with the bat. Philander muscled his way to 74 at Centurion, as de Villiers got to his hundred, to take South Africa to a massive first-innings total. He showed confidence all around the wicket and lengthens South Africa's line-up even more.
Hashim Amla 3 Tests, 286 runs @ 71.50, 3 fifties This was the series in which Hashim Amla could have gone past Michael Clarke as the No.1 ranked Test batsman and he did. His unbeaten 74 at the Wanderers played an important role in batting Pakistan out of the match. This will remain one of the few series in which Amla has not reached three-figures. He got as far as 92 at Centurion but playing a careless drive and edging behind.
Kyle Abbott 1 Test, 9 for 68 @ 7.55 He only played one Test but it was enough to earn him a high mark because of the impact that it had. Abbott made his debut after Kallis picked up a calf niggle before the third Test and he looked a seasoned professional. If there were nerves, Abbott showed none. He was disciplined in line and got the ball to rear up from just back of a good length to become South Africa's second most successful debutant in history, bettered only by his mentor Lance Klusener. Abbott fit into the team culture so well he was described by de Villiers as being "a captain's dream," and his future appears bright.
Robin Peterson 3 Tests, 6 for 229 @ 38.16, 113 runs @ 37.66 Once again, the solitary slower bowler had little to do in a pack dominated by pace. He did not bowl at all in the first innings at the Wanderers and only bowled 10 overs in the second. He got his chance in Cape Town with bat in hand. South Africa were 210 for 7, 128 runs behind Pakistan and staring at a big deficit. Peterson scored 84 runs and batted with the tail. He was scored all around the wicket and took on his opposite number Saeed Ajmal with confidence. He took five wickets in the match, three in the second innings, including the big one of Misbah-ul-Haq, to earn the Man-of-the-Match award and cement his spot in the XI.
Graeme Smith 3 Tests, 129 runs @ 25.80, 1 fifty Graeme Smith did not score as many runs as he usually does and his only success with the bat came in his 100th Test as captain at the Wanderers where he passed 50. Smith struggled against Umar Gul and Junaid Khan and it was a case of mind over matter that saw him through. He also did not have a plan for playing Ajmal and was out lbw to him twice, both times trying to sweep. His leadership, though, was exemplary as he inspired his troops and reached milestone after milestone in the process. He is Test cricket's most successful skipper with 50 victories under his belt and is so renewed by the success he has hinted at continuing for longer than he first thought he would.
Faf du Plessis 3 Tests, 113 runs @ 28.25 After the success of his first few Tests, du Plessis was always going to come down to earth. A freak dismissal at the Wanderers, where the ball rolled back onto his stumps, was followed by difficulty reading Ajmal and a move to No. 4 in the line-up, where he did a reasonable job at rebuilding after South Africa were 38 for 2. In the slip and at gully, du Plessis was agile as usual and provided the engine room for South Africa's fielding.
Jacques Kallis 2 Tests, 80 runs @ 20.00, 3 for 106 @ 35.33 If not for an umpire's error, Kallis may have compiled more runs in the series but he had to settle for an unusually low-scoring series. He was out three times to Saeed Ajmal, twice lbw, as he also battled to pick the spinner. Kallis played an important part in the 49 all out at the Wanderers but had to bowl more than his quota of overs at Newlands and did so without complaint. A calf injury kept him out of the third Test.
Morne Morkel 2 Tests, 4 for 167 @ 41.75 Morkel played only one and half Tests before being struck by a hamstring strain. His figures suggest he is the weakest link in the bowling but they do not reveal the whole picture. Morkel continued to bowl in the upper 140s, quicker than Steyn most of the time, and usually kept his end tight.
Rory Kleinveldt 1 Test, 2 for 82 @ 41.00 As he still searches for a way to carve a niche for himself, Rory Kleinveldt put in a performance that may seem forgettable although it had some highlights. Kleinveldt bowled well in his first spell at Centurion, caused problems and was unlucky but settled into a length that too full later on. He returned in the second innings with more commitment to the cause and was rewarded. He bowled with good pace throughout, often crossing the 140kph mark. He has probably done enough to remain part of future squad and as a reserve for the XI.
Alviro Petersen 3 Tests, 75 runs @ 15.00, 4 catches A lean series for the opening batsman, which got worse as it went on. Petersen dug in for more than an hour and a half in both innings at the Wanderers but it was more to see off the new ball than collect many runs. At Newlands, he did the same in the first knock but it was after that his resistance crumbled. His next two innings yielded only 16 runs as he continued to pick the wrong line and refused to move his feet. Petersen provided a safe pair of hands in the slips and took some good catches to contribute in some way to the success.
Dean Elgar 3 Tests, 68 runs @ 22.66 After a promising 27 at the Wanderers, which ended during Mohammad Hafeez's assault, Dean Elgar failed to make a big enough impact on the series to regard his place as secure. He was out to Ajmal in Cape Town and Rahat Ali at Centurion and he continues to appear uncomfortable lower down the order. Elgar is an opening batsman by trade and appears to find it difficult to make the transition lower down. With JP Duminy expected to be fit by the time South Africa play their next Test, Elgar may spend the winter feeling somewhat uneasy.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent