South Africa in Sri Lanka 2014 July 29, 2014

Steyn and Morkel hunt in pairs, Tahir flops

ESPNcricinfo marks the South African players out of 10 following their series win against Sri Lanka


Dale Steyn
13 wickets at 17.46, 1 five-for

A match-winning performance in Galle, which ended up being a series-winning effort, gave Steyn close to full marks for this tour. He combined pace, short ball attacks, yorkers and reverse swing in a display which proved that stand-out bowlers will be stand-out bowlers no matter the conditions. Steyn did not need the surface to play to his strengths. He registered the best figures by a foreign fast bowler in Galle and made crucial breakthroughs in Colombo - which included getting Kumar Sangakkara out for just his fifth first-baller in Test cricket - to lead South Africa's charge.

Morne Morkel
12 wickets at 16.00

Often overlooked as just a support bowler, Morkel was nipping at Steyn's heels, statistically speaking, throughout this series. He adjusted his game to bowl fuller in Galle when he needed to and maintained the miserliness which allowed South Africa to keep the pressure on even after the change bowlers had begun operating. In Colombo, Morkel earned his 200th Test scalp and became the fifth-fastest South African to the milestone. Always the lion-heart, he was padded up and ready to save the series with bat too but Hashim Amla admitted relief at not needing him for that purpose.


Hashim Amla
197 runs at 65.66, 1 century

Hashim Amla led from the front even before the Tests started. He was in scintillating form in the ODIs and hoped that would translate to the Tests. The examination began in Galle where he was not among the major contributors with the bat but had an excellent tactical game. Amla's declaration, which offered Sri Lanka a chase of 370 at three runs an over was considered risky but he managed his bowlers in a way that made it seem anything but. At the SSC, Amla batted for more than eight hours to record his first century as captain and blunt the Sri Lankan challenge and he did his bit to secure the series with his 170-minute vigil in the second dig.


Vernon Philander
2 wickets at 76.00, 63 runs at 31.50

Philander made memories in the first Test but not for his bowling where he went wicket-less. He featured in a 75-run eighth wicket stand and was at JP Duminy's side when the No.7 brought up his century but was also caught tampering with the ball and fined half his match fee. In typical Philander fashion, he responded to the critics as only he can - bullishly. At the SSC, his disciplines were impeccable, length was fuller and line more attacking. His claim to the allrounder position was fueled by his batting efforts. Philander spent 105 minutes at the crease in the second innings, marshaling the tail to the draw.

JP Duminy
114 runs at 57.00, 1 hundred, 5 wickets at 33.40

After runs in Australasia and at home, the place Duminy really needed to prove himself as a Test batsman was the subcontinent, especially given his history against spin. His century with the tail in Galle did it. Duminy swept and reverse-swept with confidence and helped South Africa set up a match-winning total. The old issues returned in Colombo where he looked fragile against turn but he showed good temperament to record some of the slowest innings in Tests. Although he was classed as South Africa's back-up spinner, Duminy actually took centre stage in that department and kept run-rates down. Two of his wickets came off a long hop and half volley but sometimes that is how an under-rated but effective bowler gets them.

Dean Elgar
129 runs at 32.25, 1 century

If buffalos wore shoes, it would be their size Elgar was asked to fill when he was given Graeme Smith's position at the top of the order. In his first outing as the new opener, Elgar showed a Biff-like determination to score runs despite any technical deficiencies - and Elgar's seemed to be footwork against spin - and muscled his way to what may turn out to be a career-defining century. His trouble with turn was evident in Colombo but now that it has been exposed, he will know what he needs to work on in future.

Quinton de Kock
124 runs at 31.00, 1 fifty, 14 catches, 1 stumping

The 21-year-old was entrusted with a big responsibility when this series kicked off, which only grew as it went on. AB de Villiers' hamstring niggle meant de Kock was asked to take the gloves and bat at No.6. He scored his maiden Test fifty, took 14 catches including a stunner to dismiss Kaushal Silva in the second innings, put down only one and effected a stumping to restart his Test career on an impressive note. In Colombo, de Kock was promoted to No.3 after South Africa crawled in the first eight overs of their innings and asked to infuse some energy into the cause. He showed his attacking instincts with a gritty 37 to suggest South Africa may have found their next permanent Test gloveman.


AB de Villiers
121 runs at 30.25, 1 fifty

Niggles to his hamstring and back prevented de Villiers from participating as fully as he may have liked to in the series. He scored a half-century in Galle in quick time and accompanied Amla in holding the line at the SSC where he displayed remarkable restraint. De Villiers is a naturally creative player but curbed those instincts and concentrated on blocking South Africa to glory.


Faf du Plessis
163 runs at 40.75, 1 fifty

A fairly quiet series for du Plessis, who has been promoted to No.3 in the batting line-up, started brightly with 80 in the first innings in Galle to build on the solid start South Africa had. He formed part of the resistance in both innings in Colombo but all that was overshadowed by the catch he took to give Morkel his 200th Test wicket. Running backwards from point, du Plessis had to dive amid two other converging fielders to catch Kithuruwan Vithanage's wild swing.


Alviro Petersen
68 runs at 17.00

After promising starts in both innings in Galle, Petersen was victim to uncertainty against offspin. He reviewed both decisions but was proved incorrect both times as he was beaten by deliveries that straightened from Dilruwan Perera. Things got worse in the second Test where he threw his wicket away against the other spinner, Rangana Herath, to extend his run of century-less innings to 21.


Imran Tahir
4 wickets at 84.00

This was supposed to be Tahir's watershed tour. He would be able to play in conditions where spinners thrive, where seamers have to play second fiddle and where he had proved his worth to the limited-overs' teams a year before. But all he managed to deliver was disappointment. Tahir lacked control as he rushed through overs and was inconsistent. He sent down too many full tosses and failed to find enough flight to be considered one of South Africa's premier spinners. His hour at the crease in the first innings at the SSC and 27 minutes to save the Test later on may be the only things that kept his place in the Test squad to Zimbabwe.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    Wow How could Duminy only get a 6.5 he scored a match turning century in the first test and when required nullified the Sri Lankan spinners to earn a SA a hard fought Series win - and chipped in with decent bowling figures! Even if he looked uncomfortable doing it he still did it - There really needs to be some recognition for his achievements this tour all things concerned

  • greig on July 30, 2014, 9:02 GMT

    Faff's score is way too harsh and way to close to Alviro's score. Faff was strangled down legside and Alviro chipped the ball back to the bowler TWICE!!

    Alviro should get a 1 or 2 and Tahir should be 1. Morkel should be an 8, not in the same category as Steyn Gun.

  • Soy on July 30, 2014, 1:50 GMT

    As an Australian fan I must say that Steyn continues to impress me and my fellow countrymen (the ones who realise it isn't a national sin to acknowledge the prowess of those outside of our lands).

    He's just amazing - he bowls well anywhere & everywhere. Home, away, dusty, green, flat, uneven, cloudy, sunny, mild, hot, humid, dry.

    He's a wonderful man off the field also.

    To those who dig at the ratings themselves - numbers are almost never the full story. And, furthermore, they are subjective. It is likely that whoever published this watched almost every ball of the entire series & thus can put these numbers into excellent context.

    Faf's 5.5/10 seems harsh (as he averaged 40 for the tour) but he started with an 80 & then faded away in their gritty draw, scoring a slow 36 and even slower 10 (I know the slowness of the 10, in particular, isn't too relevant due to their objectives at the time).

    A 2-test series means you have to perform in both tests to get a decent score.

  • Francis on July 29, 2014, 20:40 GMT

    Why does Faf get 5.5 and Alviro get 4? (& Imran 3?). The latter 2 should get no more than 2, tops.

    These out of 10s never make sense.

  • Deon on July 29, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    JP made a very big contribution to the team and derserves at least 7.5. His batting and bowling averages of 57 and 33.40 respectively reminds me of a certain great South African batting all-rounder that retired recently. Hope JP can fill the big man's shoes for the next 5 years or so.

  • Venkata on July 29, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    This would be my rating

    9 - Steyn, Morkel 7.5 + 1 for his Declaration in the 1st Test. 8.5 for Amla. 7 - Duminy 6 - Faf & AB 5.5 - Elgar & QDK 5 - Philander (for his 27 & 27*, otherwise he would be on par with Alviro & Tahir. Was dreadful with the ball and was also caught tampering the ball) 1.5 - Alviro & Tahir

    Elgar & de Kock needs improvement in batting against spin. So does Faf & JP. Philander is bit lazy when it comes to bending his back. He doesn't have pace nor height to trouble batsmen on flat pitches. He has to try and bowl fast off cutters and add few more to his arsenal when bowling in S/C conditions.

  • Zain on July 29, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    I'm not a fan of these player rankings / scorecards.

    We know that Steyn was brilliant, as ever. Morkel was great, exceeding expectations. Tahir and Alviro were poor. Trying to rate and rank the rest of the team seems spurious and futile, especially given the differing roles each player plays.

    JP, for example, seems underrated above. He was not out both innings at Galle after scoring a century in the first innings. At Colombo, he was told that runs were not a priority so he protected his wicket (no easy task for a left-hander with that rough patch outside off stump!) AND took crucial wickets in both matches at a tidy economy rate.

  • Ross on July 29, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    Philander was also a disappointment. Until he is 'officially' the all-rounder and not 'possibly', he has to be rated primarily on his bowling. And he was lacking. He needs to add something to his bow - either more pace, skill with cutters, something. Otherwise SA must adopt a horses-for-courses policy and he is the player to go on slower and spinning pitches, in favour of another spinner.

  • Ross on July 29, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    Petersen ranked too highly. It's not just lack of runs. His wasting referrals and the tame dismissal to Herath seems to indicate a lack of focus., as does his dropped catch. He's not terrible, but always seem to struggle at the highest level. His position is one of the few open spots in the batting, so if someone goes to bring in new talent, it's him.

    Tahir also rated a point to high. His lack of control meant too much in favour of the other team. He has admitted that sometimes his role will be holding bowler, he has admitted he tries to many variations too often, and bowls too many loose balls, but nothing changes. This was his chance - he won't see better spin conditions for a while. Still ok in limited overs, but he's used up his chances in tests.

  • des on July 29, 2014, 13:27 GMT

    Think Faf's rating is pretty harsh for someone who averaged over 40 and fielded well. Would have given Duminy at least 7 as well. Otherwise mostly agree.

    Alviro and Tahir need to move on now.

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