Cricket

South Africa’s magnificent tale of resurgence

A leader of men: Elgar, centre, was able to galvanise his bunch of ‘no-hopers’ into a team of match-winners.

A leader of men: Elgar, centre, was able to galvanise his bunch of ‘no-hopers’ into a team of match-winners.

They were the lambs to slaughter. Up against a powerful Indian side, the South Africans were the no-hopers even on home turf.

The Proteas went down in the first Test. Next was the shock Test retirement of Quinton de Kock. Then the fightback. And, the comeback was one for the ages.

A great sporting tale where heroes emerge, the script changes dramatically, and the opposition is conquered.

Significance

And this 2-1 series triumph is of great significance to a transitional side. South Africa found new champions in Keegan Petersen, Marco Jansen and Rassie van der Dussen.

Any team draws its strength from its captain and Dean Elgar took blows to his body, never wilted and carried the fight. Seeing the captain battling through pain is a spirit-lifting sight for any team.

Elgar’s all guts, match-winning unbeaten 96 on a dicey Wanderers pitch of variable bounce and seam movement, chasing a demanding 240, was a classic case of a captain leading from the front.

Elgar’s man-management skills also came to the fore. He was able to rile up Kagiso Rabada into bowling a hostile game-changing spell at the Wanderers.

Petersen is a special talent at No. 3. The technically correct batter’s ability to get into position underlines his footwork and balance. His 82 in the chase at Newlands was a display of responsibility and class.

van der Dussen showed resilience in both the successful chases, holding his end and being judicious with his strokes.

Temba Bavuma may lack the technical finesse of a Petersen but can give the ball a thump. Throughout the series he batted with aggressive intent.

Wise move

Eventually, bowlers win you games and South Africa made a crucial decision ahead of the second Test — an extra bowler at the expense of an all-rounder.

Elgar said, “The top six have to take responsibility.” And how well they did!

Even without the injured Anrich Nortje — arguably the quickest bowler in the world — South Africa had firepower in its bowling.

The fast and furious Rabada let it rip, opened up games, and scalped batters. Lungi Ngidi bowled spells of controlled aggression, generating pace and giving little away. His accurate but incisive spell in the Indian second innings at Newlands was critical.

Duanne Olivier, with his two-way swing, struck with the new ball.

The biggest star

Yet, the biggest bowling star for the Proteas was the tall left-arm seamer Marco Jansen.

He finished just one behind Rabada with 19 wickets in the series, harried the batters with his left-armer’s angle, bounce and control from both over and round the wicket. Vitally, he could bring the ball into the right-hander.

For South Africa, the pieces fell in place. This, indeed, was an astonishing comeback!


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 5:57:24 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/south-africas-magnificent-tale-of-resurgence/article38283885.ece