January 5, 2003

South African win takes them to top off ICC Test Championship

"A clinical and professional performance plus a proud moment," was the way Shaun Pollock summed up the feelings of the team after winning the second Castle Lager/MTN Test against Pakistan by an innings and 142 runs in Cape Town and in so doing wrapping up the series two-nil.

"It is good to win in this fashion, which means that the work we have put in over the past months has paid off", Pollock added in praising his team for the way they had batted, bowled and fielded during the last three series played.

Winning six out of six Test matches, four of them by an innings, has helped South Africa displace Australia at the top of the ICC Test Championship table.

Pakistan were completely outplayed in the series. They were out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded by a professional team cresting the wave after recent convincing victories.

"We were very poor in our batting, bowling and fielding throughout the Test and one-day series," said Waqar Younis, "never taking the chances that were offered we performed very badly."

"We now have a fair idea of the conditions in South Africa and will have to go home, gather ourselves and return more positive for the World Cup." Waqar said.

Chances they were given, Man-of-the-match, Herschelle Gibbs gave two in his record 228, on 29 and 99, while Graeme Smith went on to make 151 after being dropped on 54.

These chances may have made a difference to the margin of victory, but it was the Pakistan batting that left the visitors in the lurch.

Apart from the young and relatively inexperienced Taufeeq Umar, making 135 and 67 and who has a great future in Test cricket, the remaining batsmen just never showed enough application or concentration. Far too many batsmen got themselves out after reaching thirties and forties when big scores were expected from them.

Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana arrived in South Africa with tremendous reputations, but left with their images severely tarnished. The work horses of the Pakistan middle order had failed miserably and the team suffered accordingly. Batting on a pitch that was made to order for the batsmen, no excuse can be given for the inability to bat for long periods.

The bowling was also of a poor standard, never fully coming to grips with the South African conditions. They bowled down the wrong channels and at times were far too short. Saqlain Mushtaq ended the series with the best average amongst the Pakistan bowlers - 52.00 - but showed a definite lack of penetration.

In the last seven Test matches Pakistan have lost five, three by an innings, which does not bode well for either their bowlers or their batsmen.

South Africa in comparison were magnificent in both disciplines. Scoring nearly a 1,000 runs and taking all 40 wickets in the two Tests put them miles ahead of their opponents.

Man-of-the-Series, Makhaya Ntini, after taking 12 wickets against Sri Lanka, improved on that taking 13 wickets in the two Tests. Always a threat with his length and pace, he gave all the Pakistan batsmen a torrid time at the wicket. "I have enjoyed it and feel wonderful that everything is coming together, to bowl with Polly (Shaun Pollock) has been a dream throughout my career," Ntini beamed on collecting his award.

Mornatau Hayward and Shaun Pollock were just as menacing, making vital breakthroughs when things seemed to be slipping away.

Gibbs, Smith, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis, Boeta Dippenaar, Neil McKenzie, Mark Boucher and Pollock all featured with the bat. Records were set, and personal milestones were made with each batsman spending valuable time at the crease and building confidence.

The only negative for South Africa being the amount of verbal abuse that is forthcoming from some of the bowlers. Television cameras zoom into bowlers on their follow through making it fairly easy to lip read what is being said. A bit of sledging is all part of the game, but surely some of the players are overdoing it, especially when you win by an innings.

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