South Africa, the new No.1 Test unit – series review

South Africa emerged as the top Test team in the world under the captaincy of Graeme Smith after beating England convincingly 2-0 in Basil D’Olivera Trophy.

The Proteas landed in England with the firm belief that they could beat the hosts in the three Test series and get hold of the world crown. The entire team was behind its skipper filled with a different type of feelings to achieve a certain goal which was not far from them.

They initiated the series on July 19, 2012, at Kennington Oval, London, where the first Test was played. England posted a reasonable total of 385 runs in the first innings before the team was bowled out in 125.5 overs. Alastair Cook gave a rising start by dispatching 115 runs whereas Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior ended up with fifties.

The proud South African team after wearing the  No.1 Test crown
The proud South African team after wearing the No.1 Test crown

Graeme Smith led the visitors from the front by smashing 131 runs and laid a solid foundation. The most wonderful batsman of current age, Hashim Amla, played a majestic knock of unbeaten 311 runs and had the honour of becoming the first South African to pile up a triple ton in the Test cricket. The ever reliable all rounder, Jacques Kallis was not far behind, he teased the English bowlers and occupied the crease with 182 runs. The rival bowlers were at the mercy of the South African batsmen who butchered them and amassed 637 runs for the loss of two mere wickets before the innings was declared.

The Proteas bowlers haunted the English batsmen in the second innings and bulldozed the strong batting line up of the hosts at 240 before they were sent back to the pavilion in 97 overs. Dale Steyn produced a lethal spell and grabbed five wickets whereas Imran Tahir assisted him well by achieving his career’s best figures of 3-55. South Africa disgraced England and won the match with a huge margin of an innings and 12 runs.

The second Test was played at Headingley, Leeds, from August 2-6, 2012, and the match was disturbed by rain most of the time. South Africa once again posted a mammoth total of 419 runs in the first innings, Alviro Petersen thrashed his career’s best 182 runs and held the innings together. England played well and gave a solid reply of 425 runs studded with a masterly knock of 149 runs from the star middle order batsman, Kevin Petersen.

The tourists declared their second innings at 258 for the loss of nine wickets and the home side managed 130 with six wickets in hand when the match concluded in a draw.

The third and final crucial match was held at Lord’s, London, on August 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2012. The England bowlers produced the best spell of the series by removing the top five wickets of the visitors for just 105 runs. The late and lower order batting of the visitors, led by Jean-Pual-Duminy and Vernon Philander, took them to stability. Both batsmen scored 61 runs each and they enhanced the total to 309 runs before the innings concluded.

England was without the services of Kevin Pietersen who was side lined for some disciplinary reasons and young Jonny Bairstow got a chance to show his potential in the match. He played his career best knock of 95 runs as the hosts went ahead of the first innings total of the Proteas with six runs by scoring 315 runs.

Hashim Amla once again led the South African batting from the front and was the leading run scorer in the second innings with 121 runs before their innings was rolled back on 351 runs.

England was given a tough challenge of scoring 346 runs to win the Test and square the series. They had a horrible start of their second innings and lost their competent openers, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, for just six runs in the dying moments of  day four. The hosts were reeling after losing four wickets at 45 on the fifth and final day but their middle and lower order batting fought well and at one time looked like taking away the match from the visitors.

Bairstow once again proved his worth and played a breezy innings of 54 off just 47 balls comprising 8 fours before he was clean bowled by Imran Tahir. Matt Prior and Graeme Swann continued with the attack and contributed 74 runs for the eighth wicket in 11 overs before Swann was unluckily run out for 41 runs as the score reached 282. The intelligent captain of the Proteas, Graeme Smith, took the new ball instantly and Vernon Philander did the rest by removing the dangerous looking Matt Prior for 73 runs on the fourth ball of the 83rd  over. Steven Finn was gone on the very next ball, the innings of England was folded back at 294 and the visitors won the thrilling match by a margin of 51 runs.

South Africa remained dominant throughout the series in all departments of the game. The batsmen gave liberties to their bowlers by putting enough runs on board and they were backed up with a high class fielding. They won the important series comprehensively 2-0 under the leadership of Graeme Smith, rose to the heights of the Test cricket while becoming the No.1 team in the ICC ranking and added a golden chapter in their cricket history.


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