So then, the last test of the season is something of the past and Graeme Smith and his lads elevated the 2012/2013 season to the best in the history of South African cricket.
Second consecutive series victories in England and Australia in the same year cemented a new found confidence in the Protea squad and this time they embraced and clung to the status of being the best test team in the world.
The Proteas will now enter a cluster of ODI’s, including 5 against Pakistan and the ICC Champions Trophy in June.
The next test season starts with the Proteas touring Pakistan in October. Thereafter awaits the Indian tour of South Africa at the end of the year followed by a visit of the Ausies in February 2014.
The South Africans last lost a test in December 2011 against Sri Lanka and since they remained unbeaten. In 15 tests the Proteas won 10 and drew 5; 1 against England, 2 against the Kiwis and 2 against Australia. They won their last 6 tests: 1 versus Australia, 2 versus the Kiwis and 3 versus the Pakistanis.
The last test between the Proteas and Pakistan was certainly not dead rubber. To the contrary, on the official rankings it meant two additional points. If the Proteas drew the last test they would have accumulated two ranking points. If they lost and the series ended 2 – 1, they would have earned one point. Whitewashing the Pakistanis meant four points.
South Africa now leads England with an impressive 10 points on the ICC rankings table.
From now on the Britons will have to play catch-up cricket to overhaul the Proteas as the number one test team in the world.
As things stand at the moment the Proteas look set to dominate cricket for a long time.
In the 80’s and 90’s the Windies and after them the Australians had three qualities that elevated them to the leading test teams in the world. They won games they controlled. With moments of brilliance they won games that they were seemingly losing. When gutting it out in the middle was the only way to rescue games they did so.
Over the last 18 months the Proteas developed and displayed the same abilities and therefore it is not surprising that they are the best test team in the world.
Since readmission team spirit and unparalleled grit and determination made the Proteas a tough team to beat. For eighteen years they were better known for their doggish resistance that individual brilliance.
Over the last three years it all changed and currently most of the South African lads are either the best or in the top 10 of the ICC player’s rankings: Hashim Amla (1), AB de Villiers (4), Jacques Kallis (8), Dale Steyn (1), Vernon Philander (2) and Morne Morkel (9).
Still there is more. Graeme Smith is probably one of the best captains ever and certainly the most successful South African captain of all times. AB is the best batter/wicket keeper in the world and Kallis the best all-rounder around.
Some would regard it as fictitious but the Proteas can be better if some of the talent, lurking outside, are included in the team. Rilee Rossouw is a brilliant batter, the obvious successor for Kallis and a potential batting genius. Technically he is on par with AB and better than FAF du Plessis and Dean Elgar. It remains a mystery why he is not in the mix.
Quinton de Kock is a brilliant keeper and even a better batter. If the national side does not need his keeping abilities he should be there for his batting. However with AB not really into the glove work Quinton’s presence should be a formality.
Alviro Petersen is a good opener but not fulfilling his potential. If this trend continues Dean Elgar should get a go as Smith’s opening mate.
And then there is JP Duminy; and Johan Botha, who for some mystifying reason cannot convince the selection panel that he is South Africa’s best spinner in all formats of the game. Robin Peterson is not the solution for our spinner woes and Johan should take his place.
This team compares with the best of the Windies and Ausies when they were on song: Smith, Alviro/Dean, Hashim, Kallis, AB, Rossouw, De Kock, Botha, Philander, Steyn and Morkel.
Add JP Duminy, Dean, FAF, Robin, Marchant de Lange and Rory Kleinveldt and any change due to injury will be a seamless affair.