South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day December 17, 2011

South Africa starting to gel dangerously

South Africa are bringing together all areas of their game and producing a dangerous combination
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Half a Test match. These days when South Africa win a Test match, that's all the time they need. For the second time this summer, they have wrapped up victory in little over seven sessions, pushing the match in fast-forward and earning themselves some extra time off over the holiday season.

Resounding with the bat, forceful with the ball and comprehensive all-round, South Africa were able to stamp their authority over their opposition early on. Out of 10, they are probably an eight, with the only worries being the back-up bowlers and a few of the batsmen, but as an all-round unit, they are starting to gell in dangerous fashion.

"Today was probably the best standard we produced," Graeme Smith said. "Even though we bowled Australia out for 47, I thought today was really good. "

It was not just a performance of value because South Africa cleaned Sri Lanka up but because they did so having maximised the ability to exploit conditions and sharpened their killer instinct. Previously, South Africa may have laboured trying to dislodge the tail or even been satisfied with a smaller lead. Smith said "we would have been happy with a 100-run lead on this surface but to get 200 and a bit ahead really allowed us to attack with the ball." At the end of the second day's play, AB de Villiers was certain that South Africa had a big enough lead, at the end of the match, they proved him right.

Vernon Philander is already being hyped up as the find of the season after his role in securing the victory. At international level, he may well be, but those who have watched him from his days as an cheeky newbie in 2007, to his toil on the first-class scene since then, will not be surprised by the performances he has put in. Words like skilful and canny have been used to describe him but another couple that can be added to those are disciplined and aggressive.

South Africa's attack blended their aggression with strangulation and Smith summed it up well when he said "there weren't too may free deliveries out there".

He stole the limelight off Dale Steyn, which gave the world's top-ranked bowler the time he needs to hit top gear. He covered for an under-firing Morne Morkel, who Smith said was "a bit rusty" and would get better the more he bowled. Philander's penetrative performance also meant the match was over before Imran Tahir could even come into play.

In his three Tests so far, the legspinner has had to play on seamer-friendly pitches and although he has managed to squeeze out some wickets, he has had to do so despite the conditions. Still, Smith believes there is a place for Tahir in the Test squad and that the time will soon come for him to play a part.

"I don't think it's been the easiest wickets for Imran to start his Test career on. The wickets have seamed a lot and he has not really had to play a frontline role for us," Smith said. "But, this Test match, he went looking for work with the bat and in the field and the confidence and enthusiasm that he showed is always exciting to have. We know what skills he has and I'm sure somewhere in this series, the skill will have to come to the fore." Tahir scored a run-a-ball 29 and showed a marked improvement in the other two aspects of his game. Cape Town will likely provide him with his best chance to impress.

Jacques Kallis also showed a more committed approach to bowling, which was absent from his game against Australia. He regularly got up to over 140kph and has taken his place as the containing seamer. "I don't know if he has got too many more 147 kph spells in his body but it's always great to see him like that. It's terrific the amount of work he is putting into the bowling," Smith said. As a whole, South Africa's attack blended their aggression with strangulation and Smith summed it up well when he said "there weren't too may free deliveries out there".

With the bat, it was particularly pleasing to see Mark Boucher's 65 and the way he combined with the tail to form key partnerships at the end of the innings. At the start of the series, Boucher was facing pressure, with talk about his successor swirling. He was able to ignore the debate and humble enough to seek help. "Mark has played enough games to know when he is not performing to a standard," Smith said. "I think it's more a technical thing, he has put in some work on his batting and if you look at the way he played against Australia, he changed a few things technically."

South Africa will take five days off before regrouping next Friday in Durban. They will allow their bodies to rest but not their minds and the primary objective when they get to the coast will be to keep the lid on Sri Lanka. "Today was quite emphatic, our intensity was great," Smith said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Amol_Gh on December 20, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    ("Anderson takes a staggering **17** more Tests (NOT innings) to catch up with Steyn in terms of wickets.") Yup, that is right. But I wanted to add more. That 17-match gap would be spot-on if Anderson starts performing like Steyn from ***NOW*** onwards. Else that gap is only going to widen if Anderson still performs to his own standards.

  • Vilander on December 19, 2011, 9:50 GMT

    SA has awesome bowling, congrats..

  • Fast_Track_Bully on December 19, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    @spence1324. The same question is applicable to ur batsmen too...why ur batsmen not able to score in batting friendly conditions in the sub-continent?

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    @AMOL_IND_SA . AGREE WITH YOU , ANDERSON IS OVERRATED . HE ONLY NEEDS GREEN PITCHES OR OVERCAST CONDITIONS TO TAKES WKTS . WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM WHEN HE ENTERS IN SUBCONTITNENT ? LETS SEE HOW MANY WKTS WILL HE TAKES AGAINST PAK IN UAE.

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    @SHAFAET ASHRAF . YEP , STEYN BOWLED OUT INDIA IN INDIA IN FIRST TEST BUT WAIT .... WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT TEST ? INDIA PILES UP 600+ IN FIRST INNINGS WITH LOSING ONLY 5 WKTS , AND STEYN GETS ONLY 1 WKT GIVING 100+ RUNS ROLLING ALL OVER THE PARK BY SEHWAG , LAXMAN , DHONI ,SACHIN . REAL CLASS BOWLERS WERE WASIM AKRAM , IMRAN KHAN , KAPIL DEV , MALCOLM MARSHALL , MICHAEL HOLDING . THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO TAKE WKTS EVERYWHERE , EVEN ON DUST BOWLS .

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 4:59 GMT

    @spence1234 . BECAUSE IN SUBCONTINENT MOSTLY WKTS ARE TAKEN BY SPINNERS. ALSO PAKISTAN SEAMERS TAKES WKTS EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD .

  • on December 19, 2011, 3:20 GMT

    We are not quite 100% with our lineup yet. My biggest disappointments being Wayne Parnell and JP Duminy. These guys started their careers SO WELL, but seem to have fallen away a bit. A left arm fast bowler who can swing the ball would have been fantastic to have in combo with Steyn, and as much as I admire Ashwell Prince, JP Duminy has the potential to be a much better no.5 or 6 batsman (wouldn't bat him any higher than that). When Kallis does retire we won't have the luxury of such a balanced team. We might have to play our wicketkeeper at 6 just for fit in an extra bolwer who can bat a bit at 7 or 8.

  • righthandbat on December 18, 2011, 22:57 GMT

    Philander is quite a find - but it is early days yet. He seems to complement Steyn nicely and allows Morkel a little more room to move when he has bad days. I feel like Amla should be opening the batting with Smith and de Villiers should take over the number 3 spot. Sure, he's a gun at number 5, but he's mature and skillful and with Kallis at 4 that's a very very formidable top 4. Another batsman should be given a run at number 5 or 6, but otherwise the SA unit seems very good.

  • on December 18, 2011, 18:44 GMT

    I would agree. SA look a potent attack now. All this while they had one issue. Always had a menacing/ biting opening attack but the first change seemed to ease things much a bit for the opposition. The intensity dipped monstrously on days. Now with the trio and Kallis plus Tahir, they look like a unit which can pose problems for the oppositions more consistently - smthng which wins you Tests. Batting is good as well. Its all upto them to win in the mind now or its a big shame Smithy.

  • thebigone on December 18, 2011, 18:43 GMT

    green with long grass thats how to make them in SA. and the best fast bowler in the world but he does get abit of help. mind its been that way since readmitted.

  • Amol_Gh on December 20, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    ("Anderson takes a staggering **17** more Tests (NOT innings) to catch up with Steyn in terms of wickets.") Yup, that is right. But I wanted to add more. That 17-match gap would be spot-on if Anderson starts performing like Steyn from ***NOW*** onwards. Else that gap is only going to widen if Anderson still performs to his own standards.

  • Vilander on December 19, 2011, 9:50 GMT

    SA has awesome bowling, congrats..

  • Fast_Track_Bully on December 19, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    @spence1324. The same question is applicable to ur batsmen too...why ur batsmen not able to score in batting friendly conditions in the sub-continent?

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    @AMOL_IND_SA . AGREE WITH YOU , ANDERSON IS OVERRATED . HE ONLY NEEDS GREEN PITCHES OR OVERCAST CONDITIONS TO TAKES WKTS . WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM WHEN HE ENTERS IN SUBCONTITNENT ? LETS SEE HOW MANY WKTS WILL HE TAKES AGAINST PAK IN UAE.

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    @SHAFAET ASHRAF . YEP , STEYN BOWLED OUT INDIA IN INDIA IN FIRST TEST BUT WAIT .... WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT TEST ? INDIA PILES UP 600+ IN FIRST INNINGS WITH LOSING ONLY 5 WKTS , AND STEYN GETS ONLY 1 WKT GIVING 100+ RUNS ROLLING ALL OVER THE PARK BY SEHWAG , LAXMAN , DHONI ,SACHIN . REAL CLASS BOWLERS WERE WASIM AKRAM , IMRAN KHAN , KAPIL DEV , MALCOLM MARSHALL , MICHAEL HOLDING . THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO TAKE WKTS EVERYWHERE , EVEN ON DUST BOWLS .

  • rahulcricket007 on December 19, 2011, 4:59 GMT

    @spence1234 . BECAUSE IN SUBCONTINENT MOSTLY WKTS ARE TAKEN BY SPINNERS. ALSO PAKISTAN SEAMERS TAKES WKTS EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD .

  • on December 19, 2011, 3:20 GMT

    We are not quite 100% with our lineup yet. My biggest disappointments being Wayne Parnell and JP Duminy. These guys started their careers SO WELL, but seem to have fallen away a bit. A left arm fast bowler who can swing the ball would have been fantastic to have in combo with Steyn, and as much as I admire Ashwell Prince, JP Duminy has the potential to be a much better no.5 or 6 batsman (wouldn't bat him any higher than that). When Kallis does retire we won't have the luxury of such a balanced team. We might have to play our wicketkeeper at 6 just for fit in an extra bolwer who can bat a bit at 7 or 8.

  • righthandbat on December 18, 2011, 22:57 GMT

    Philander is quite a find - but it is early days yet. He seems to complement Steyn nicely and allows Morkel a little more room to move when he has bad days. I feel like Amla should be opening the batting with Smith and de Villiers should take over the number 3 spot. Sure, he's a gun at number 5, but he's mature and skillful and with Kallis at 4 that's a very very formidable top 4. Another batsman should be given a run at number 5 or 6, but otherwise the SA unit seems very good.

  • on December 18, 2011, 18:44 GMT

    I would agree. SA look a potent attack now. All this while they had one issue. Always had a menacing/ biting opening attack but the first change seemed to ease things much a bit for the opposition. The intensity dipped monstrously on days. Now with the trio and Kallis plus Tahir, they look like a unit which can pose problems for the oppositions more consistently - smthng which wins you Tests. Batting is good as well. Its all upto them to win in the mind now or its a big shame Smithy.

  • thebigone on December 18, 2011, 18:43 GMT

    green with long grass thats how to make them in SA. and the best fast bowler in the world but he does get abit of help. mind its been that way since readmitted.

  • on December 18, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    @prashkannam: steyn,pollock,donald shown their skill in india,isn't it? specially steyn destroyed india in india.

  • spence1324 on December 18, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    A lot of subcontinent fans are still saying' wait till they bowl on a flat or dustbowl pitch etc', but the reel question is why can subcontinent bowlers not get wickets on so called 'green tops' that in there view are bowling paradises, i wonder......

  • prashkannam on December 18, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    i feel the skill levels of the sa pacemen are exaggerated in south africa more than anywhere else....i would be interested 2 see vernon philander how he perfoms in the subcontinent from a dangerous seamer in southafrican and swinging conditions 2 the dustbowls of the subcontinent...frm green track 2 brown track.....its the same with every team for subcontinental batsmen more so when they travel 2 southafrica!! off late south africa are preparing lively pitches...i still remember the horrors of horrow wicket in durban southafrica it was an absolute paradise pitch 2 bowl @ for the like of donald and pollock....no wunder india got skittld out for less than a hundred!

  • on December 18, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    simple answer to srilanka's condition, this is the void that murali,vaas and sanath have made.

  • on December 18, 2011, 15:56 GMT

    Jacques Kallis for is all time best all rounder second to none other than great sir gary sobers. He is a genuine all rounder. He bowls above 140 or near it and is a genuine top order batsman. He is quite underrated as a bowler but he can be very difficult to face. He is extremely fit unlike poor watson and angelo who seem to always injured for bowlin at 120's but playing back to back matches are not helping their cause. Hats off to kallis

  • SAcricFan on December 18, 2011, 14:46 GMT

    for the first time in a very long time I truly believe SA selectors have got the sa team/squad selection right, this team is definitly the best crop of players that can be selected at the moment in sa,to look ahead now to the Eng-sa series would not be an accurate picture cos its still to far away, many things can happen between then and now but if this series did take place now, i belive it would be very close and exciting series to watch!

  • saforever on December 18, 2011, 14:17 GMT

    all i know is that south africa has a tour to new zealand after this and that series will be a close one. i have a feeling if south africa does well over there they will do well in england as well. all the best sa

  • on December 18, 2011, 14:13 GMT

    South Africa have always had the skill and ability. Looking back over the years since they have been allowed back in they have had some truly great players: Pollock, Donald, Kirsten etc. What they have always seemed to lack is the mentality. Why? Who knows. The team they have on paper should be able to beat anyone. They will beat Sri - i think even Bangledesh would get a positive result against them at the moment. Will they be bale to string together enough positive results to beat the big boys, i'm not sure. As they showed against Oz they don't seem to have the mental strenght (for use of a better expression) to win games they shoud. YEs, they done brilliantly to win the first test, but then could not take that into the second test. This (after many years of being awful) is the skill that England currently have. You need more then just raw skill and talent to win games. You need, what i like to refer to as, the Australian arrogance, which enabled the great team to be, well, great.

  • on December 18, 2011, 14:08 GMT

    What a time in international cricket! I can see that the top spot is for grabs within the next 2 years. The main contenders for this spot are Australia, South Africa, India and England. I think South Africa could probably gain the top spot and hold on to it longer than anyone else within that period. But I would love to see my team, West Indies, challenge for at least fourth spot for now. Bravo and Kirk Edwards are coming along nicely, but they need more help from the rest of the squad. West Indies can build a potent squad around the likes of Bishoo, Bravo, K Edwards, Barath and Andre Russell.

  • Amol_Gh on December 18, 2011, 14:02 GMT

    How can be Anderson (M-63, W-240, no performance in the sub-continent) be even compared to Steyn (M-49, W-255, with match-winning performances in the sub-continent) ??? Anderson takes a staggering **17** more Tests (NOT innings) to catch up with Steyn in terms of wickets. Plus look at the difference in Averages (Steyn: UNDER 23.00, Anderson: OVER 30.00). And even if Anderson does manage to catch up with Steyn, he will have to do that including his impressive performances in the sub-continent, which are NONE at the moment. Or else Anderson will lose his credibility even if he catches up...that is if he does catch up. Currently, Steyn is in an altogether another league trying to overtake Lillee in terms of being the fastest wicket-taker after each match ends. With just 4 wickets behind after 49 matches, eventually Steyn will because Lillee has gone without wickets in his 60th,61st & 67th Tests, which is a mistake I think Steyn wiill never do in the near future. Meanwhile, Anderson...???

  • khiladisher on December 18, 2011, 13:06 GMT

    SRI LANKA HAVE BEEN POOR IN TEST MATCH CRICKET FOR LONG NOT WINNING ANY TEST SERIES EVER IN INDIA-AUSTRALIA -SOUTH AFRICA AND WEST INDIES- AND THEIR BATTERS AVG 30 RUNS OUTSIDE SRI LANKA-ALSO NOT WINNING A TEST NOW FOR 15 TEST MATCHES AND FACING A 4TH SERIES DEFEAT IN ROW-ITS BLEAK TIMES FOR LANKAN CRICKET.

  • khiladisher on December 18, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    THE 600+ PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN SANGA AND MAHELA VS SOUTH AFRICA HAS STARTED TO LOOK LIKE THE BIGGEST JOKE THAT EVER HAPPENED ON A CRICKET PITCH- NO WONDER THESE 2 BATTERS HAVE NEVER SCORED ANY DECENT RUNS OUTSIDE SRI LANKA{SANGA 192 HAPPENED AT A SLOW-LOW HOBART PITCH AND NOT THE THE NEW GREEN PITCH-THE AUSSIES AND KIWIS PLAYED.

  • SunAndSea on December 18, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    @butterhandsfingers: Yeah mate, an abberation. Suppose the skill of the South African bowlers had nothing to do with it. Rather like English players have little to so with England's victories.

  • stormy16 on December 18, 2011, 11:25 GMT

    I think SA are getting carried away - lets face it these are pitches totally doctored for the SA attack against an oppoent who are at their lowest point in a long time playing in totally alien conditions. If that's not enogh they havent got paid for a year so to beat the daylights out of such an opponent is nothing more than the obvious. This is now 2 tests in 3 this summer that SA have won in 3 days due to the pitch being too friendly for their bowlers. Is this not a concern - doctoring pitches to suit the world number 1 $ 3? Isnt the ICC interested in inspecting these wickets - the games arent lasting 3 days. Sides are being bowled out for less than 100 (Newlands) and the wicket at Centurian has far too much grass. Not even a SA batsman could make a century against what is surely weakest seam attack around. That tells me the wicket isnt a sporting track. The same on the sub-continent would draw strong critisism from all and sundry but not a word here.

  • butterhandsfingers on December 18, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    SA were very good in this test, but far too inconsistent overall; on paper they're ahead of England but they don't seem to have the gumption to consistently pummel teams the way England have been doing. Oz were well ahead in the first test before they went mad and got out for 47, without that abberation they could easily have won the series 2-0. Should be a great series next summer when SA come over here, hope it's a good contest

  • spence1324 on December 18, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    Seems every one is getting carried with the forthcoming series with england,imo wait! it is still to early, there are still test series to be played for both teams before that test series so depending on form from those series we will have a better fill on a likely winner.

  • Vijay6484 on December 18, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    It was a good all-round effort by the team which resulted in a way better than we imagined. The issue with the team in past the two years has been the momentum which was not carried along throughout the series. We hope SA place a bigger full stop for the loses at home. All the very best to the team.

  • on December 18, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    @mahjut Yes it should be a really good series, I mostly agree with your head to head assessment but I'd say that one factor you did not take into account was the lower order batting, normally that does not matter so much, but if England play Bresnan, Broad and Swann then you have a 8,9 and 10 who average 45, 30 and 23 with the bat respectively and only Anderson is a genuine tailender. That kind of batting depth is a real luxury for England.

  • Bahnz on December 18, 2011, 5:08 GMT

    "South Africa are bringing together all areas of their game and producing a dangerous combination"

    Wow, that's only about the 3rd time this year that someone has said this about SA and the previous two occasions were immediately before humiliating defeats.

  • sanjai_zequin on December 18, 2011, 4:51 GMT

    SA deserves to be ranked first..

  • jmcilhinney on December 18, 2011, 4:34 GMT

    I think that everyone expects SA to win this series but, as an England fan, the degree of the victory will be of interest to me. Australia recently beat SL in SL 1-0 but were pretty much robbed by the weather. England beat SL in Eng 1-0 before that. I didn't see any of that series but SL managed to put together a few decent innings there so it wasn't as comprehensive a win as Australia's or SA's appears that it might. It will be interesting to see the result of England's series in SL. I think the real marquee series is obviously SA in England. The last battle for the #1 spot fizzled due to India's injuries and poor performance otherwise but the SA-Eng series could likely be another battle for top spot. The title may have changed hands before then or it might not but, regardless of who holds it at that point, the other could take it.

  • Rahul_78 on December 18, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    A test victory scored in 3 days against an international team should not be undermined. SL have been poor for long but SAF were ruthless and professional at the same time to put Lanka in its place. It was fitting reply to Lanka after Mahela and Sangga went on scoring 600+ partnership against SAF in Lanka. However SAF should look to prepare more of bating wickets with bit of spin to prepare them selves for the bigger challenges ahead and to cover all the bases.

  • sanzo5 on December 18, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    England vs south africa will be a tight contest... England should have fit bowlers in s.broad, anderson and co who tend to travel out of england only if the destination is seamer friendly like australia or south africa... never compare steyn and morkel with andersen and broad since S & M are true quality bowlers.. they are ready to come and work hard even in subcontinents.. let england come to pakistan or srilanka to prove their bowling class.. forget about their batting....

  • on December 18, 2011, 2:30 GMT

    South Africa have a fantastic seam attack but there middle order is suspect under pressure situations. If their bowling attack is even slightly below par they are unable to win. Enough said about Steyn. Philander has been phenomenal. SA should play De Lange instead of Tahir. There is no point in playing Tahir if they are going to use him like a part time bowler.

  • mahjut on December 18, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    @btw ... it's the manner of the beating that is to be looked at (rather than get excited about). I fully expect they'll win but if SA can tweak things while doing it they will also be well on their way to completing an already full package.

  • Deenesh on December 18, 2011, 1:53 GMT

    Let's see what SA can do in England, they think they have seaming conditions, wait until they go to the kingdom of swing. If they can beat England, I truly believe they will be the worlds best Test team.

  • sasi on December 18, 2011, 1:39 GMT

    straus - roudlf(even) cook - smith(0.5 England) trot - amla(even) peterson - kallis(1.25 SA) considering kallis is an alrounder2. bell De - villers(even) morgan - prince(0.75 England) prior - boucher(0.75 England bresenan - phlinder(even) swan - thair(0.5 England) anderson - steyn (0.25 sa) broad - morkel(even) both can be brilliant AT TIMES, and ordinary two.

    England ahead by 1 Point, in my book. not much in it.

  • sasi on December 18, 2011, 1:28 GMT

    batting wise england slightly ahead because of no 6,7 morgan and prior compared to SA's prince and boucher (u back them to score hundreds, same cant b said about prince and boucher). bowling wise morkel looks disappointing even after all these years. apart from that both teams look evenly matched.

  • Bytheway on December 17, 2011, 23:50 GMT

    I wouldn't get too excited. Even Australia beat Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka!

  • mahjut on December 17, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    v_s_p is right, the true test will come vs england but wrong about this result being unimportant. SA have looked rusty, they have also not really pulled themselves together to finish sides off. Call it what you like - and i know what most call it - but if they want to beat england (and going from the last time they met, they are CERTAINLY capable of doing so) the likes of Prince, Boucher and Morkel cannot be carried while Tahir needs a defining contribution before Eng too [though he and rudolph will not be in any way unfamiliar with Eng conditions]. If the two sides are at their best, then, we're in for a treat! Captains: par ... Openers: Eng ... 3,4,5: SA ... 6&7 (inc wkt): Eng ... at'cking duo: SA (?) Philander may take a REAL shine to Eng wickets and Steyn is #1 (his stats in Eng are misleading - accumulatively they're great!!)... Spin: atm Swann (but Tahir has 500+ FC wkts, many in uk, @25 ave, he simply can't be a slouch) & first change: par. pressure situations: Eng (atm, but...)

  • very_stupid_point on December 17, 2011, 20:02 GMT

    The true test lies ahead in England next summer. I don't see SA coming away with another series win. England are seriously impressive at present and are close to being the complete package as a test side. Even if SA beat SL 3-0 (which they should), I wouldn't read too much into it.

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  • very_stupid_point on December 17, 2011, 20:02 GMT

    The true test lies ahead in England next summer. I don't see SA coming away with another series win. England are seriously impressive at present and are close to being the complete package as a test side. Even if SA beat SL 3-0 (which they should), I wouldn't read too much into it.

  • mahjut on December 17, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    v_s_p is right, the true test will come vs england but wrong about this result being unimportant. SA have looked rusty, they have also not really pulled themselves together to finish sides off. Call it what you like - and i know what most call it - but if they want to beat england (and going from the last time they met, they are CERTAINLY capable of doing so) the likes of Prince, Boucher and Morkel cannot be carried while Tahir needs a defining contribution before Eng too [though he and rudolph will not be in any way unfamiliar with Eng conditions]. If the two sides are at their best, then, we're in for a treat! Captains: par ... Openers: Eng ... 3,4,5: SA ... 6&7 (inc wkt): Eng ... at'cking duo: SA (?) Philander may take a REAL shine to Eng wickets and Steyn is #1 (his stats in Eng are misleading - accumulatively they're great!!)... Spin: atm Swann (but Tahir has 500+ FC wkts, many in uk, @25 ave, he simply can't be a slouch) & first change: par. pressure situations: Eng (atm, but...)

  • Bytheway on December 17, 2011, 23:50 GMT

    I wouldn't get too excited. Even Australia beat Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka!

  • sasi on December 18, 2011, 1:28 GMT

    batting wise england slightly ahead because of no 6,7 morgan and prior compared to SA's prince and boucher (u back them to score hundreds, same cant b said about prince and boucher). bowling wise morkel looks disappointing even after all these years. apart from that both teams look evenly matched.

  • sasi on December 18, 2011, 1:39 GMT

    straus - roudlf(even) cook - smith(0.5 England) trot - amla(even) peterson - kallis(1.25 SA) considering kallis is an alrounder2. bell De - villers(even) morgan - prince(0.75 England) prior - boucher(0.75 England bresenan - phlinder(even) swan - thair(0.5 England) anderson - steyn (0.25 sa) broad - morkel(even) both can be brilliant AT TIMES, and ordinary two.

    England ahead by 1 Point, in my book. not much in it.

  • Deenesh on December 18, 2011, 1:53 GMT

    Let's see what SA can do in England, they think they have seaming conditions, wait until they go to the kingdom of swing. If they can beat England, I truly believe they will be the worlds best Test team.

  • mahjut on December 18, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    @btw ... it's the manner of the beating that is to be looked at (rather than get excited about). I fully expect they'll win but if SA can tweak things while doing it they will also be well on their way to completing an already full package.

  • on December 18, 2011, 2:30 GMT

    South Africa have a fantastic seam attack but there middle order is suspect under pressure situations. If their bowling attack is even slightly below par they are unable to win. Enough said about Steyn. Philander has been phenomenal. SA should play De Lange instead of Tahir. There is no point in playing Tahir if they are going to use him like a part time bowler.

  • sanzo5 on December 18, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    England vs south africa will be a tight contest... England should have fit bowlers in s.broad, anderson and co who tend to travel out of england only if the destination is seamer friendly like australia or south africa... never compare steyn and morkel with andersen and broad since S & M are true quality bowlers.. they are ready to come and work hard even in subcontinents.. let england come to pakistan or srilanka to prove their bowling class.. forget about their batting....

  • Rahul_78 on December 18, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    A test victory scored in 3 days against an international team should not be undermined. SL have been poor for long but SAF were ruthless and professional at the same time to put Lanka in its place. It was fitting reply to Lanka after Mahela and Sangga went on scoring 600+ partnership against SAF in Lanka. However SAF should look to prepare more of bating wickets with bit of spin to prepare them selves for the bigger challenges ahead and to cover all the bases.