Johannesburg — Given where they were a year ago, South Africa’s Testteam has surprised even itself by being second in the ICC World Test Championship.
Fresh off a series win against Bangladesh, the Proteas sit behind Australia on the table, having won five out of seven matches in the current Test Championship cycle. “ From where we were a year ago when we sat to plot the way forward, we wouldn’t have thought we’d be second at this stage,” said left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. “We wanted to keep planning, but it shows that if we keep doing the right things from a culture point of view and from the perspective of (improving our) skill, the rewards will come.”
That they have. South Africa stunned India to win that three-match series earlier this summer. Having lost the first Test against New Zealand on the back of a difficult period spent in strict quarantine, they bounced back to overwhelm the current World Test champions in the second Test.
Then facing Bangladesh in spin friendly conditions at the coast, South Africa dominated the Tigers to cap an excellent home season particularly in the Test arena. Maharaj was the star, taking 16 wickets in the mini series, including two, seven wicket hauls. “It’s been a very good Test season. I’m very happy to have contributed to the team’s series victory. It’s a good way to end the summer.”
While understandable that some may reckon it was ‘only Bangladesh,’ it is worth keeping in mind the improvements they have undergone since Russell Domingo took over as head coach, with a Test victory in New Zealand and the One-Day series success here proof of that. “It’s felt like a really long season, and ‘bubble life’ makes it more difficult than it actually is,” said Maharaj. “The (Bangladesh) series was huge in the context of the world Test championship. We are all looking forward to building on the amazing work we’ve done this season, but first we are going to enjoy the down time.”
Maharaj, replicating some of the excellent timing he showed in his career-best innings of 84 made in Gqeberha, will be using the first part of that down time to get married to his long time fiance, Lerisha, this weekend.
“With the schedules changing because of the pandemic, it actually all fell into place. The date also gives me time after the wedding, to start preparing for the next series.”