COLOMBO – The Proteas failed their #TrialBySpin hopelessly in suffering a series whitewash to Sri Lanka. The report card is therefore a sorry tale, apart from a couple of virtuoso performers.
Keshav Maharaj: 16 wickets, average 24.37
South Africa’s undoubted star of the series. The slow left-armer relished the opportunity of playing in a part of the world where is fine art is cherished, and delivered marathon spells as a result. After a slow start in the first innings in Galle – most likely due to getting over-excited with the conditions – turned it around from there on to bag 16 wickets in the series, including a record nine in the first innings at the SSC. After years of searching for spinner, the Proteas have a little gem in Maharaj.
Theunis de Bruyn: 104 runs, average 52
The rainbow at the end of a terrible storm that ripped through the Proteas batting unit. Coming into the line-up after the Galle embarrassment, De Bruyn laid down a marker that he wants to be a regular part of this Proteas Test side with a sublime maiden century in trying conditions. Showed his more senior teammates the template on counter spin on turning pitches: Sweep, sweep and sweep some more! Should be allowed to settle in now moving ahead.
Kagiso Rabada: 8 wickets, average 23.87
Bowled with great heart and pace and was a constant threat to the Sri Lankan batsmen regardless of the conditions. Was particularly good at Galle when he gave his team a chance with seven wickets in the match, only to watch the batsmen fritter away the advantage. Was a bit quiet at the SSC.
Temba Bavuma: 93 runs, average 23.25
Actually looked of the more assured against spin, both in Galle and at the SSC, and particularly showed great intent in posting 63 during the 123-run stand with De Bruyn in the second innings in Colombo. However, the same-old criticism of Bavuma remains that he simply has to convert more of those fifties into centuries when the opportunity arises.
Tabraiz Shamsi: 4 wickets, average 32
Bowled beautifully in return to Test cricket in the first innings at Galle. Was both penetrative and economical. However, the passing of his father between Tests meant Shamsi made a whirlwind round-trip to South Africa and back again in just a couple of days. Was available to play though at the SSC, but was inexplicably left out of the XI.
Faf du Plessis: 105 runs, average 26.25
Tried valiantly to hold both first innings together in Galle and the SSC when all was falling around him, but ultimately could not play that big innings that may have titled the balance in his team’s favour. Equally, his leadership lacked the spunk it normally has and will have learnt a great deal about himself on this first tour as captain of the Proteas to the subcontinent. Has to take responsibility too for being part of the brainstrust that went with just one spinner at the SSC.
Hashim Amla: 40 runs, average 10
The memory of the once “Mighty#” almost constant presence, particularly in the sub-continent where has been so prolific in the past, at the crease is quickly starting to fade as Amla approaches the sunset of his career. It is not only the runs his team misses from its former captain, but also the calming presence Amla brought to the entire batting line-up, hence the three out of four collapses here in Sri Lanka.
Dean Elgar: 49 runs, average 12.27
Often a player like Dean Elgar’s contribution can be overlooked due to him being surrounded by more flamboyant players. However, this series highlighted Elgar’s value to the Proteas. A frustrating series, considering his contributions here four years ago and the over the past 18 months, for the gritty left-hander and it caused a ripple effect all the way through the batting line-up.
Aiden Markram: 40 runs, average 10
After enjoying a brilliant start to his Test career with 1000 runs in 10 Test matches on home soil, Markram endured an ugly initiation to the subcontinent. He will be disappointed with his output, but showed in the second innings in Galle that he will become better after more frequent visits to the lands of spin and spice.
Quinton de Kock: 53 runs, average 13.25
South Africa’s precocious wicket-keeper/batsman is in the midst of a terrible slump. Everyone is well aware of De Kock’s class, but there are glaring technical deficiencies that need to be addressed if he is ever to be successful on the subcontinent. Unfortunately the old mantra of “see ball, hit ball” is just not going to cut it anymore.
Dale Steyn: 2 wickets, average 89.50
Steyn is a “glass half full” type of character and will take positives from the fact that he completed a Test, let alone an entire series, for the first time in almost two years without breaking down with another injury. However, the modest return of 2/179 – even going wicketless at the SSC for the first time in his illustrious career – at an average of 89.50 would have been hard to swallow for the great fast bowler.
Vernon Philander: 1 wicket, average 38; 40 runs, average 40
The conditions served up by the hosts were always intended to neutralise Philander’s threat with the new ball. The plan worked perfectly in Galle with the all-rounder ultimately being dropped for the second Test at the SSC. Earns an extra point for his batting in Galle.
Lungi Ngidi: 1 wicket, average 63
Another youngster who would have learnt a great deal on this tour, especially after being drafted into the line-up for the second Test at the SSC. Has the skills and pace to be successful in these conditions, but will just need to increase his fitness to cope with bowling long spells at great intensity in these high levels of humidity and heat.