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Five days of Test cricket and South Africa lost two wickets. They did so against the No1 team in the world – in that team’s backyard.
“It’s very special, those kinds of things don’t happen often,” said Gary Kirsten.
The South African coach was right. A team winning a Test having only lost two wickets has happened just four times, and South Africa were involved in two of those – one in 1924 when they lost at Lord’s, the other against Bangladesh in 2003, when Jacques Rudolph (222*) and Boeta Dippenaar (177*) shared a 419-run unbeaten third wicket partnership.
But this was England, in England. Against Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, who are all among the ICC top 10 bowlers.
England are defending the No1 spot in this series. They may yet come back and draw or win the series in the next two Tests and hold on to it, but it is all looking rather flimsy at the moment.
Since claiming that ranking last year with a 4-0 thrashing of India – in England – they’ve lost five out of nine Tests.
Their last two defeats to South Africa have now been by an innings. They’re certainly not figures that suggest the ranking is deserved.
Andrew Strauss maintained some diplomacy last night, praising South Africa for their sterling effort in securing an innings and 12-run win, but there was also the realisation on his part that England, for all the lustre they seemingly possessed before the first Test, were comprehensively outplayed for four days.
“One of the advantages of having time before the next Test is that you’ve got time to take stock and to let things settle. We’ll be doing that over the coming days,” said the England captain.
“We must use the time wisely, put this game to bed and recharge the batteries.
“Andy (Flower) will be calling each one individually but everyone needs to go away and think about what they could have done better and steel themselves to play some hard cricket to win next week.”
There were a few sore heads in the South African camp this morning, but those are thoroughly deserved. It was an astonishing performance coming back after the first day, when they were written off, to complete a victory that contained landmarks of enormous historic significance.
Graeme Smith, who arrived in Cape Town today to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s first child, became just the seventh player to score a century in his 100th Test, and of course there was Hashim Amla’s supreme triple century on Saturday, the first by a South African in Tests.
“To see him go about his business is a treat,” said Jacques Kallis, who was batting at the other end when the milestone was achieved with a four over extra cover on Sunday.
Their partnership of 337 represented the 10th time they have shared a century stand, and the third time they had gone past 300.
Kallis has been involved in more partnerships of 200 or more runs than anyone in Test history. The figure currently stands at 20.