Spinner Keshav Maharaj was the Proteas' highest wicket-taker. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

CAPE TOWN - Independent Media cricket writer Zaahier Adams has given each of the Proteas a rating out of ten for the New Zealand series.

Keshav Maharaj 9/10

M: 3 | Wickets: 15 | Ave: 19.93

The tour of New Zealand was an unexpected coming of age for the Dolphins left-arm spinner. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought to encounter such responsive pitches outside of the sub-continent and he duly took full advantage to finish as South Africa’s highest wicket-taker in the series.

It was achieved with a minimal of fuss too, with Maharaj sticking solidly to the disciplines of line and control. A captain’s dream in the field too as his frugal economy allowed Faf Du Plessis to bowl him unchanged for an entire session on two occasions while the fast bowlers rotated from the other end.

Maharaj became the first spinner since Paul Adams to claim consecutive Test “five-fors” back in 2003 on this tour and will head to England firmly entrenched as South Africa’s No 1 Test spinner.

Quinton de Kock 9/10

M: 3 | Runs: 210 | Ave: 52.50 | HS: 91 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 2 | Catches: 13 | Stumpings: 2

Not a bad return for someone who was labelled “Jeet’s Bunny” midway through this series after his initial struggles against New Zealand’s veteran off-spinner Jeetan Patel. Four dismissals in four innings (the final two ODI’s and both innings of the first Test in Dunedin) were a cause of concern for some, but never for South Africa’s highest ranked Test batsman.

De Kock stuck to his attacking gameplan, even in the most trying of circumstances, and his uncomplicated approach to batting reaped significant rewards for the Proteas. Along with Temba Bavuma, De Kock changed the course of the second Test – and ultimately the series – in Wellington by counter-attacking with purpose. Although he just missed out on a century at the Basin Reserve – and again in Hamilton – his runs were worth their weight in gold for the Proteas, especially due to their misfiring top order.

He also showed great character by playing in the final Test at Seddon Park with a finger-tendon injury and not allowing it to impact his wicket-keeping by still claiming magnificent one-handed catches to both his right and left. De Kock is the true superstar of the Proteas line-up across all formats now!

Morne Morkel 8.5/10

M: 3 | Wickets: 11 | Ave: 26.72 | Runs: 49 | Ave: 49

A gamble which paid off handsomely for South Africa. Morkel had only played two domestic limited-overs matches prior to selection for this Test series after a career-threatening back injury, and there was great concern whether the beanpole fast bowler’s body would be able to cope with the workload of three back-to-back Test matches.

However, the rest has seemed to invigorate Morkel for he returned refreshed and hungry to play international cricket again. He bowled with great aggression and was easily South Africa’s most menacing fast bowler of the series. His trademark bounce was still there too, but more importantly he followed it up with a full length that allowed South Africa to make the early breakthrough on regular occasions.

Morkel also paid greater attention to his batting on this tour which culminated in a match-changing last wicket partnership with Vernon Philander in Wellington. Considering the ruckus surrounding other international captains around the world at the moment, the Proteas can be proud they have a leader in the calibre of Du Plessis.

Morne Morkel appeals for a wicket. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Faf du Plessis 8/10

M: 3 | Runs: 198 | Ave: 66 | HS: 56* | 100s: 0 | 50s: 3

A much quieter series – both on and off the field – for the South African captain than last year when he was “across the ditch” in Australia, but yet Du Plessis was still hugely successful.

The Proteas skipper often walked to the crease with this team in a crisis and calmly absorbed the pressure to allow the likes of De Kock to flourish later on. His only disappointment would have been that he did not manage to convert three half-centuries into anything more substantial for he knows the value of making a good start count. His fielding, particularly catching, remains out of the top draw and it was almost a surprise when he did not hold on to a one-handed screamer off Jeet Raval’s slap through mid-wicket in Hamilton, such is the high standards Du Plessis has set.

Temba Bavuma 7.5/10

M: 3 | Runs: 189 | Ave: 37.80 | HS: ? | 100s: 0 | 50s: 2

Bavuma might be a little man but he has a massive heart and is quickly developing into South Africa’s man for a crisis. His numbers at this stage may not reflect his value to the team, but boy do his teammates appreciate his contributions.

On two occasions in this series was Bavuma required to knuckle down and dig South Africa out of an almighty hole. And on both occasions in Dunedin and Wellington he did it with aplomb. The fact that he has not added to that goose-bump maiden Test century at Newlands yet will rankle with him and his detractors, but there’s every chance it might happen when he faces the English again later this year on their home turf.

Dean Elgar 7/10

M: 3 | Runs: 265 | Ave: 44.16 | HS: 140 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 1

Elgar earns this high ranking as South Africa’s only centurion of the series. His effort in the first innings in Dunedin was superb for it was a tough batting surface at the University Oval. Equally his second innings vigil, missing out on two centuries in one Test by just 11 runs, was just as good.

Although he is firmly established as one half of South Africa’s opening pair, like his batting partners, he needs to find a way to be more consistent as the gritty left-hander only added a further 36 runs for the rest of the series after his Man of the Match effort in Dunedin.

Vernon Philander 6.5/10

M: 3 | Wickets: 2 | Ave: 101.50 | Runs: 70 | Ave: 35

For a bowler who is the epitome of statistics the 2017 New Zealand tour will be regarded as a failure, especially considering his 21-wicket haul there on the previous visit five years ago. But such is the esteem with which Philander is held in these parts that the entire nature of the pitches utilised for this series were altered to neutralise “The Ravensmead Wrecker”.

Instead of the green-tinged seaming surfaces that New Zealand is traditionally known for, the Proteas were met by brown turning surfaces. It had the desired neutralising effect of affording Philander just two wickets, but that did not stop South Africa’s opening bowler from having a significant impact on proceedings.

Like he has shown previously on the subcontinent, Philander reverted to creating the pressure for his fellow bowlers by restricting the Kiwis scoring rate tremendously through impeccable discipline lines and length. His overall economy rate of just 2.33 runs to the over showed off Philander’s class.

Kagiso Rabada 6/10

M: 3 | Wickets: 8 | Ave: 38.87

South Africa’s pace spearhead seemed to burn out all his engines in the preceding ODI series on this tour – he was Man of the Series – and seemed to be operating on reserve during the Tests. It was still a helluva reserve tank, for Rabada hustled all the Kiwi batsmen with his pace and bounce and even accounted for the big scalp of Kane Williamson in Wellington with an in-swinger that set up the victory.

But for all his resolve, the extra zip just seemed to me missing on occasion and Rabada’s workloads will no doubt be monitored closely during his maiden IPL season with the ICC Champions Trophy and first full tour to England on the horizon.

Hashim Amla 5/10

M: 3 | Runs: 153 | Ave: 30.16 | HS: 50 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 1

Once a feared traveller, Amla is starting to look a shadow of his former great self on batting strips outside of his home comforts. In his last five tours Amla has averaged four in Zimbabwe, 13 in Bangladesh, 16.85 in India, 19.60 in Australia and now 30.16 in New Zealand.

As the numbers indicate there was a slight improvement against the Kiwis with one half-century in Hamilton, but Amla needs to rediscover his mojo very quickly for a massive tour of England looms large.

Hashim Amla has been a shadow of his former self. Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed

JP Duminy 4/10

M: 3 | Wickets: 4 | Ave: 26.75 | Runs: 104 | Ave: 20.80

Duminy’s bowling numbers were purposely put ahead of his batting statistics on this rating card for it was with the ball that he had the greatest impact on the series. His career-best 4/47 in Wellington was massive in the context of the series for it set up the victory that ultimately ensured South Africa’s victory.

Unfortunately for Duminy, that is not his primary role in the Proteas Test side for he occupies the crucial No 4 slot that is customary reserved for the “best batsman” in the team. A return of just over 100 runs at an average of just over 20 is simply not acceptable and was one of the primary reasons why South Africa’s slipped into crisis mode for much of this series. The selectors’ patience may just have run out.

Theunis de Bruyn 1/10

M: 1 | Runs: 12 | Ave: 6 | HS: 12 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0

A third-ball duck opening the innings would not have been the way Theunis de Bruyn envisaged his debut Test for the Proteas. But those were the cards he was dealt when called in at the expense of Stephen Cook in the final Test in Hamilton.

A messy run-out that led to a collision with Hashim Amla in the second innings brought an end to a miserable first Test for the Knights captain. His only consolation will be the fact that it can only get better from here on.

Stephen Cook 0/10

M: 2 | Runs: 17 | Ave: 4.25 | HS: 11 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0

The hour glass finally ran out for Stephen Cook on this tour. Unlike in Australia where he was afforded the opportunity to right his wrongs in the final Test in Adelaide with a century, Cook was left out in Hamilton. His issues against the swinging-ball outside the off stump surfaced again which could spell the end of his Test career.

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