The Stuff of Legend – Part 2
January 23, 2013 in cricket
Last week, we had a look at the beginning of the Proteas rise to dominance in test cricket and although South Africa had been playing excellent Test cricket for a while (such as series wins in Eng and Aus in 2008/2009) they lacked a certain consistent ruthlessness that said “we are South Africa and we WILL NOT be beaten” as Graeme Smith puts it, the Proteas are now able to “skin the carcass” and although that might be a strange way of putting it, put some thought into it and Smiths words are spot on. A few comments last week suggested I may be jumping the gun and that a clean sweep of the Black caps is hardly anything to gloat about, well that may be true (although any clean sweep where all matches are won by an innings is cause for excitement) Winning series away against England and Australia for a second consecutive time is probably one of the finest achievements in test cricket especially since only one other team has done it in the games history. Last week we spoke about the indifferent home series against Australia and the satisfying series against Sri Lanka, it was now onto New Zealand then a mighty challenge in England where the number 1 ranking would be up for grabs.
7 – 27 March –South Africa are tasked with a 3 match test series against Lowly ranked NZ, expectations are that South Africa will brush them aside and that this is just preparation for the
England tour later in the year, only two members of the current South African team have played test cricket in New Zealand, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.
The first test in Dunedin is drawn and despite centuries from Graeme Smith (115) Jacques Kallis (113) and Jacques Rudolph (105) weather gets the better of the match and the Proteas can not force a result. The disappointment of the 1st drawn test would be overshadowed by a 9 wicket win for the Proteas in Hamilton, Vernon philander again showed he is something special with match figures of 10-114 and Graeme Smith scoring a meaty 4th innings 55 not out to take his team to victory, South Africa were now up 1-0 in the series with the final match to be played in Wellington. There would however be bad news for Smith and his men and despite a massive first innings score of 474 thanks to hundreds by Alviro Petersen (156) and JP Duminy (103) the weather once again had the final say despite an aggressive declaration by Graeme Smith. The Proteas had won the Series 1-0 and it was more than a satisfying result. Captain Graeme Smith continued his rise in form as he finished as the leading run scorer with 282 runs at an average of 56.40.
19 July – 20 August – South Africa’s next challenge was a big one, they were to go to England to play a 3 match test series (Basil D’Oliveira Trophy) but there was more at stake, much more. Should South Africa win the series they would overtake England as the number one ranked side in world cricket. The task was massive and would take a top performance by the Proteas,
they were up for the challenge, what made matters even more interesting was that South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith was to play in his 100th test match in the first test at the oval.
The first test, probably the most spectacular of the series started on a rocky note for South Africa as Alistair Cook’s ton guided England to 267-3 after day 1, South Africa needed something special if they were to get back into the match and as they so often do, South Africa fought back and England lost their last 7 wickets for only 118 runs to be bowled out for 385. South Africa’s reply started disastrously as Alviro Petersen was struck LBW for a duck but what was to come would be sketched in the record books forever.
Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla came together at the cease and tormented England’s bowling attack into the ground, Graeme Smith’s 50 came off 160 balls, his slowest 50 ever, and his dual with Graeme Swann was scintillating, but it was after reaching his 50 that Smith opened up and smashed the bowlers to all parts of the park, and it was in the 64th over that the special moment came when smith hit Tim Bresnan for two consecutive boundaries to bring up the South African captains 25th Test Hundred and in doing so became only the 7th player in history to score a hundred in their hundredth test, He received a standing ovation as if playing in front of the Newlands Cape Town crowd. Smith departed for 131 for a majestic innings and it was now the Kallis and Amla show.
Jacques Kallis brought up his ton on day 4, pointing to his eye in honor of his best friend Mark Boucher who sadly, had been struck in the eye by a bail in a warm up match and was forced to announce his retirement from international cricket. Kallis went on to make 182. but the real millstone was still to come, a man who’s beard probably grew a few millimeters during his innings, the Might hash became the first South African in cricketing history to score 300 runs in an innings, it was simply fantastic, and by the time Graeme Smith declared Amla was on 311 not out, a number that will stay in the minds of South Africans for a very, very long time. South Africa had plenty of runs on the board, they couldn’t lose, and it was now up to the bowlers to deliver and deliver they did. Led by Dale Steyn (5-fer) South Africa bowled England out of the game during the last session to take a 1-0 lead with two tests to come. The second test match ended in a draw but some top batting displays were on offer, most notably 182 by Alviro Petersen and a fantastic
149 by Kevein Pietersen, Proteas captain Graeme Smith also weighed in with two 50’s. The third match which was another milestone for SA great Graeme Smith who was to overtake Alan Border as the most capped test captain but this achievement was overshadowed by the Kevin Petersen SMS sagas which also lead to KP being dropped for the 3rd and final test. The 3rd test was a nervous one for the Proteas as their top order flopped in their second innings, but another fantastic hundred from Amla saw them post a decent total and set up a scintillating final day at the home of cricket. Lords.
England’s chase was a show of fight back and character, It was also England captain Andrew Strauss’s 100th but unfortunately for him, he was not about to have the same joy Graeme Smith did in his 100th and despite top batting performances by Trott, Bairstow and Matt prior aided by contributions by Swann and Broad England fell just short and South Africa won the series and become the number 1 ranked team in the world. It was a sign of things to come
Part 3 to follow next week