An extreme hunger and deep passion to represent the country underscores the resilience in the South African cricket team and even a change in captaincy didn’t lead to a lessening of those attributes.
A loud cheer greeted Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and a few other members of the playing and management staff as they strode into the arrivals hall at OR Tambo last night. The gathering of fans was increased by those who’d come to welcome back the successful Blitzbokke Sevens team who were on the same flight as some of the cricket squad.
Like their rugby compatriots, the cricketers too had some significant reasons to celebrate, achieving a first Test series win in Sri Lanka in 21 years and a first One-Day International series win ever in that country.
“The last time South Africa won there, (bowling coach) Allan Donald was still bowling at 150km/h … it’s a very difficult place to tour and have success,” said head coach Russell Domingo. “To win a Test series over there is something the players can feel very proud of.”
The two match Test series was won 1-0 off the back of an historic victory in Galle, where new skipper Amla’s second innings declaration caught many by surprise and wasn’t universally popular in his own dressing-room – “I wasn’t very comfortable with it, with giving them a sniff,” De Villiers admitted on Tuesday. The second Test was drawn in thrilling fashion with South Africa hanging on with two wickets in hand on a viciously turning track in Colombo. It was the third time in less than two years that South Africa had managed a draw when everything appeared to be against them.
“It’s an extreme hunger and deep passion that the team has to represent the country as best as it can,” Amla said yesterday. “To put (thoughts about your) averages aside, to put the ego aside for the accolade of maybe getting a fifty or a hundred, that kind of stuff was immaterial. The best example was JP (Duminy) who got six off (123 balls) in the match and it’s not an easy thing to do as a batsman. We’ve got a very good team culture and in certain situations it’s about what you need to be successful. The efficiency with which the batsmen operate has been a feature.”
South Africa’s next Test assignment is a one-off match against Zimbabwe in Harare in August, and the selectors have named an unchanged squad for that encounter.
Adding to the triumphant nature of the month-long tour was the 2-1 win in the One-Day series which further suggested that the structures being put in place ahead of 2015’s World Cup are working. “The most important thing for us is the structure of play that is being put together, we seem to be devising a pattern of play that is becoming successful for us and led to us winning 12 of our last 15 ODIs, one of which was rained off,” said Domingo.
South Africa will play a three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe next month which will be followed by a triangular series involving Zimabwbe and Australia.
Domingo and the selectors meet next week to pick the squads for those two events with frontline bowlers Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel and Vernon Philander to be rested for the three ODIs against Zimbabwe. “It might be an ideal time to look at some of our younger fast bowlers in those three matches against Zimbabwe.”
Test squad: Hashim Amla (capt), AB de Villiers (vice-capt), Kyle Abbott, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Morné Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl.