Hashim Amla (377 runs at 62.83) 9/10
Two sides of Hashim Amlawere on display in this series: the one who can survive a series of streaky shots and chances and still score a century and the one who incorporates flair and flamboyance to achieve the same thing. Amla’s hundred in Brisbane helped South Africa build a foundation in the match but it was his innings in Perth that took the series away from Australia. In a frenzied second afternoon, his scoring rate was at times above seven an over as he and Graeme Smith batted the morale out of Australia’s attack. He fell four short of a double-ton and will end the year as second on the run charts behind Michael Clarke, but he has a Test mace to go with it, unlike the Australian.
Faf du Plessis (293 runs at 146.50) 9/10
For the second successive tour, a South African debutant has been the catalyst for creating history. Du Plessis showed immense presence of mind when he batted out more than four sessions against a talkative Australian side to save the Adelaide Test. There, he also became the first South African to score a half-century and a hundred on debut. With South Africa again in trouble in Perth, du Plessis knuckled down to post 78 and his knock was the reason the team had a first-innings lead. Beyond a solid technique, it was his temperament that stood tall. When South Africa held their post-match fines’ meeting, du Plessis was named their man of the series because of the impact he had. Few would disagree.
Graeme Smith (255 runs at 42.50, 10 catches) 8/10
Likely to be judged South Africa’s best captain, Smith led the team to a second successive series win in Australia by example. His only hundred came in Adelaide, after South Africa had conceded 550, and the recovery by du Plessis in the match saved Smith’s record of always winning after scoring a century. He also contributed a meaty 84 in Perth in a towering stand with Amla. His slip catching was unmatched as he pouched wickets from all angles and there was only one instance in which he let one through, with the ball going between him and Jacques Kallis. While the numbers speak of his ability to perform, the trophy tells the story of his work as captain. Smith continues to inspire the team to new heights. Having taken them to No.1 in the world, he also played a significant role in defending the crown.
Morne Morkel (14 wickets at 28.50) 8/10
The highest wicket-taker of the series, South Africa’s most loved big baby has grown up. Morkel‘s control was better than ever before, his cleverness in the using the short ball and varying his lengths was seen, and he was rewarded in every match. Despite taking wickets off no-balls in Brisbane, he was South Africa’s best bowler there and in Adelaide, where he was also the most economical in the second innings. He was overshadowed by Dale Steyn in Perth but still displayed exemplary ability to make batsmen feel awkward. It seems that Morkel now understands his own capabilities better, and they were aptly displayed on conditions that suited him.
Jacques Kallis (339 runs at 56.50, 2 wickets at 24.50, 5 catches) 7.5/10
In the shadows of Ricky Ponting’s retirement, talk has drifted to Kallis and the legacy he will leave when one day he too plays his last. Widely acknowledged as being among the best batsmen and all-rounders in the world, Kallis proved his worth in Australia again. His century in Brisbane was the perfect complement to Amla’s, and his 58 and 46 in Adelaide was the stuff of legend. Battling a hamstring strain, Kallis did his bit to save the match even while clearly in pain. It was also in that match that his worth as a bowler was underlined. He turned around the South African effort with two wickets before pulling up. Kallis could not bowl in Perth and only scored 39 runs, but without him South Africa may not have gone to Perth with a chance to win the series.
AB de Villiers (276 runs at 55.20, 8 catches, 1 stumping) 7/10
He left it late but when AB de Villiers returned as the batsmen we knew, it was spectacular. After struggling with the bat in Brisbane, he showed signs that he was coming back in Adelaide when he partnered du Plessis in an epic match-saving effort. For 220 balls, de Villiers showed enormous restraint as he concentrated on safety first. By the next Test in Perth, he was ready to explode, and once he had found his front foot again, he did. His innings was a fireworks display of reverse paddles and cheeky cuts but it is worth remembering that it came after the least amount of overs spent in the field. De Villiers’ keeping has also been considered adequate and he upped that a gear too. He was nifty behind the stumps, efficient in his catching and pulled off the stumping that dismissed Michael Clarke in Perth.
Dale Steyn (12 wickets at 30.83) 7/10
|Dale Steyn saved his best for the final Test
Having provided an entrée with a fiery spell in the warm-up match at the SCG, Steyn served cold food until Perth. He did not get his pace up and did not have the success he normally does as the go-to man. He was aggressive in the lead-up to the final Test and took it out on the field. On the second morning, Steyn decimated the Australian top-order to turn the match and the series South Africa’s way. He found swing, and bowled with speeds in the early 140s throughout, and when Steyn builds up a head of steam that hot, batsmen can only fear. He saved the best for the last and ended the series one wicket short of 300.
Alviro Petersen (200 runs at 33.33, 1 catch)6.5/10
The lowest scorer in the top six, Petersen did not have a defining innings on the tour, although he looked well set for one twice. His 64 in Brisbane was a glimpse into his promise which ended in a soft dismissal, and his 54 in Adelaide was cut short by a needless run-out. The quality is evident but the ability to convert affected him in this series. He also took a stunning catch on the boundary to deliver one of the best entries in the scorebook, c Petersen b Peterson.
Robin Peterson (6 wickets at 28.50) 5/10
Having thought he would do nothing but carry drinks on this tour, Robin Peterson was surprised with a Test recall. It came after four years on the fringe, and it showed a more mature player who has obviously benefitted from the experience of being around the side. He contributed sensibly with the bat in the first innings in Perth and claimed three wickets in each innings with the ball. Some of the time, that was based on luck. Peterson was expensive, but he had the runs at his disposal to be, and showed his lack of fear in flighting the ball. His game-plan of drawing Michael Clarke forward paid off and he also accounted for Ricky Ponting’s last dismissal as a Test batsman.
Vernon Philander (4 wickets at 49.75) 5/10
Philander had to wait until the Perth Test to get his first wicket of the series. In Brisbane, he was as ordinary as the rest of the attack, and the second highest no-ball offender. It looked as though batsmen were learning to leave him better and his usual fourth-stump channel was not working. A back injury kept him out of Adelaide but he returned to Perth to find swing and create havoc with Steyn on the second morning. Both Ponting and Shane Watson were added to his tally of big scalps in that innings, and he had an impact with the new ball in the second innings too. It’s been a long time coming, but this series was the gliding back to earth for Philander.
Rory Kleinveldt (4 wickets at 60.75, 1 catch) 4.5/10
As part of a four-pronged pace attack in Brisbane, Kleinveldt was the weak link on debut. He was nervous and it showed. He overstepped 12 times and was wasteful due to an over-reliance on the short ball. He would not have played in Adelaide if not for Philander’s injury and proved an opportunity for him to give a better account of himself. Kleinveldt took the first three Australian wickets and demonstrated his ability to extract bounce and produce seam movement.
Jacques Rudolph (74 runs at 18.50) 3/10
Having struggled to settle in at the top of the order a year ago, Rudolph is now battling to do the same in the middle order. A technical fault is stunting his progress as he struggled with offspin in this series. He was out all four times to Nathan Lyon in the first two Tests, to take his tally to seven in the last eight innings. Rudolph was dropped for the Perth match.
Dean Elgar (1 match, 0 runs, 1 catch) 1/10
In the match after du Plessis debuted for South Africa, Elgar was handed his first cap. He could not have had a more contrasting maiden appearance. He was worked over by Mitchell Johnson in the first innings by three pitched-up deliveries and then fell to the pull shot off the short ball and trapped lbw by the same bowler in the second, having been barraged with bouncers on that occasion. His only mark on the game was the catch he took at deep square leg to dismiss Ed Cowan, a well-judged one taken over his head.
Imran Tahir (1 match, 0 wickets, 260 runs) 0/10
It’s not often that at the culmination of a series, a player has performed so poorly that he does not deserve a rating at all. It’s probably even rarer that a player on the winning side has to endure this embarrassment. But, for Tahir, there is no escaping it. He was amateur in the only Test he played in Adelaide, persisting with the full toss and short ball even though he got tonked. To make it worse, he overstepped seven times and took a wicket with one of them. Tahir was sent home early in the hope that he would be able to do soul searching and restore confidence. After a showing like that, he may need to.