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South Africa: 525/8 dec
New Zealand: 121 and 211
South Africa win by an innings and 193 runs South Africa win series 2-0
THE New Zealand press contingent will make their way home now that the serious business of the Test series has been concluded. Some of the Black Cap players must be wishing they could tag along on the flight back to the Land of the Long White Cloud after the mauling they have suffered here in Africa over the course of this two-match series.
It’s been bloody-nose stuff for the visitors from day one in Cape Town right through until yesterday’s fourth morning, which lasted just 95 minutes here at St George’s Park. The Kiwis would have hoped to at least stretch the Test into the second session when play resumed with their in-form batsmen Dean Brownlie and BJ Watling still at the crease.
However, the local band could even have got into their rendition of “Bye bye Kiwis” earlier had the masterful Dale Steyn not been the sixth bowler of choice yesterday. And when that new ball did eventually become available, he certainly wrapped things up in double quick time with another three wickets to take his series tally to 13 – the highest of the series.
“Yeah ... we outplayed them. We’ve been really professional throughout this series, bar maybe a couple of catches in Cape Town,” said Proteas captain Graeme Smith, who was full of praise for his side in being able to maintain their optimum level of performance that took them to the World No1 ranking.
“All the headlines we see is about being complacent, but the guys have shown they are hungry to do well. The bowlers have bowled with good pace, good aggression and good intensity and the batters have got runs.”
It certainly has been a complete team effort from the Proteas, especially in the Windy City where new players like Faf du Plessis (it’s hard to digest the fact that he has only played four Tests), Dean Elgar and fast-medium bowler Rory Kleinveldt all made significant contributions alongside senior players like Steyn and Hashim Amla. Both Du Plessis and Elgar achieved personal milestones in the process, with the former posting a career best 137 while the little Knights left-hander registered his maiden Test three-figure score.
Kleinveldt’s progression from a domestic bowler into a Test quality back-up seamer in the absence of star opening bowler Vernon Philander also has to be lauded. It simply gave the Black Caps batsmen no breathing space in trying to contend with an attack that already had Steyn and Morné Morkel consistently breathing fire down on them with spells of great pace, swing and bounce.
“The thing now is that it is relentless,” said Smith. “People can back each other up. It’s not just one bowler and the batsmen being able to play through that and things ease up. They just keep coming and create constant pressure. They all bowl with good pace, good intensity.”
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum could not help but agree with his counterpart. “I’ve never been challenged as consistently as that by a group of bowlers,” he said. McCullum also stressed that the Proteas have improved significantly since the Black Caps kept the series scoreline down to 1-0 almost 12 months ago at home, and in general, were much more competitive.
“South Africa have got a lot better. They have played some tough cricket since (away series in England and Australia). They are at the absolute top of their cycle of performance. They never let us into the game,” McCullum added.
The Proteas grip on the ICC Test mace is only slightly strengthened due to New Zealand’s lowly ranking, but South Africa should face a sterner test of their abilities when Pakistan arrive for, according to Smith “a potentially tough series”, starting at Wanderers on February 1.
Until then though, let’s at least hope the Black Caps put up a better fight in the three remaining one-day internationals of this tour. Considering what has transpired since it might seem ages ago now, but they did shock the Proteas in World Cup quarter-final less than two years ago.