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Future is bleak for the Proteas as they stare down series whitewash against Aussies

Keshav Maharaj of South Africa bowls during the second day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Keshav Maharaj of South Africa bowls during the second day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Picture: Dean Lewins/EPA

Published Jan 5, 2023


Cape Town - There is a growing opinion that this South African side has reached the end of the road.

With any chance of qualification for the ICC Test World Championship virtually obliterated on the second day of the third and final Test at Sydney on Thursday, the process of change should begin sooner rather than later.

The series loss to Australia was not entirely unexpected. But the overwhelming margins and the bludgeoning manner in which they were achieved has been simply astonishing.

The batting has been fragile and timid for a lengthy period of time. But now the bowlers have added to the depressing state of affairs.

They were lauded only six months ago as arguably the most complete attack in the world that boasted the type of variation South African teams of the past could only have dreamt. Yet, they too have been rendered toothless in the last two innings with Australia rattling up 575/4 in the Melbourne heat and now following it up 475/4 at the SCG.

There is every chance the carnage could continue even further with Usman Khawaja closing the day unbeaten on 195. Steve Smith also registered his 30th Test century to surpass Sir Donald Bradman, while Travis Head struck a quickfire 70.

“It’s been a really tough tour,” Proteas left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj admitted.

It certainly has. And even more so for Maharaj, who finally claimed his first wicket of the series after delivering 67 overs across the three Tests thus far when Smith spooned a return catch.

It was met by a muted response from Maharaj and the rest of the Proteas team which aptly illustrated the morale in the Proteas camp at the moment. Furthermore, Maharaj has accepted that the Australian batters have simply been too good for them in this series.

“Fair play to Australia, their opening batters have created a good foundation for them to play freely. But you can’t take anything away from their batters, they have very sound, clear plans and they stick to them,” he said.

“Usman is a different player against spin than he was here in 2016 and in South Africa in 2018/19, he has played all around the wicket, taking his scoring opportunities and he has very good hands.

“Travis Head is probably one of the best timers of the ball in international cricket and he has played very well, scoring fifties in all three Tests. It comes from the platform set up front, it gives him licence.

“It’s one of the more experienced batting line-ups and the top-order makes sure there is a strong base so the middle-order can play aggressively. The Australian batting line-up is one of the best in the world.”

It was expected that Maharaj, along with second spinner Simon Harmer, would have a greater impact at the SCG. But the prevailing weather conditions that has seen both days truncated due to downpours has nullified any advantage the Proteas had hoped for.

"There are good wickets here in Australia and you aren't going to get as much spin as you're used to anywhere else in the world. When you're behind the eight ball, sometimes it's difficult to bowl a certain way because you have spread fields and the batters are in,” Maharaj said.

"It's more about being consistent, and I probably haven't been at my most consistent on this tour, if I'm honest with myself. It's something I need to address going forward.

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"At the start of the Test match we expected it to turn a lot more than it has, but I think the weather has always played a role in getting the wicket a little bit more wet.

"I do think it will start turning if it gets a bit sunnier from here on. You can't control the weather and it is a weird situation with the stoppages that are happening. In the position we're in, the more time that gets taken out of the game is probably better for us, to be fair."


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