Who would have thought that South Africa would win the first Test by an innings and 12 runs after the first day’s play?
England had won the toss and had the upper hand on the first day as the Proteas’ attack toiled in the sun. Test cricket, though, is not won on the first day as England found out.
South Africa rose to the challenge and showed why they have a case to be considered as the best Test side in the world. Here’s how we rated them:
Graeme Smith – The skipper came off a long injury lay-off to put any doubts over his form to rest, as he plundered yet another century on English soil. He really does seem to enjoy playing in England and we’ll hope that he maintains his form throughout the series. His decisions on the field were also astute as his bowling changes more often than not seemed to work. Smith has matured in his role as captain and we hope that he’ll be in charge for a while yet. He has earned his 9.
Alviro Petersen – Failed in his primary task as a batsman and was adequate in the field. He missed a run out opportunity, going for the stumps himself when he could have thrown to the ‘keeper to affect the run out. 4
Hashim Amla – Amla scored nearly half of South Africa’s runs as he became the first South African batsman to score 300 runs in an innings. He was composed and untroubled throughout his marathon innings and played some glorious strokes and was a joy to watch. Yes he played a few false strokes, strokes that didn’t quite come off the middle of the bat and he was dropped on 40, but he made his own luck by being circumspect and playing each ball on its merit. Amla fully deserves his 10.
Jacques Kallis – A class act. Kallis wasn’t quite at his fluent best, but his innings came close. Once he had his eye in, he played the aggressor role to quite devastating effect, none more so when he launched into Graeme Swann, hitting him for the lone six of the SA innings. Kallis also chipped in with two wickets and a few catches and was full value for his 9.
AB de Villiers – Did not get a chance to show the English what he can do with the bat but was more than competent as the stand-in ‘keeper. He bagged eight catches off the quicks but had some problems standing up to the spinner Tahir. We’d much prefer to see him without the gloves but then it’s not really our job to select the team. We’re just glad that De Villiers is as talented as he is and that we have him in the side. For his efforts we give him a 6.
Jacques Rudolph – Rudolph did not get a chance to do fulfill his primary batting duty and was adequate in the field. 4
JP Duminy – Also did not get to bat, but chipped in with a few overs of spin and was quite handy in the field for his 5.
Dale Steyn – The world’s number one bowler showed why he’s so highly regarded. Steyn wasn’t quite as effective against the English in their first innings but found the fourth and fifth day conditions much more to his liking. He steamed in with purpose and aggression and his efforts paid off as he ended with seven wickets in the match. An epic 8 for Steyn.
Vernon Philander – Big Vern didn’t get the reward his bowling deserved, but he kept the English on their toes and chipped in with the big wicket of Cook in the second innings. We gave him a 6.
Morne Morkel – Morkel got the match off to a positive start when he picked up the wicket of England skipper Strauss in the first over. He, like the rest of the Proteas toiled on the first day, but was simply superb on the second being a menace with his bounce and his line. Morkel bowled some great spells on day four and made life difficult for Andrew Strauss and then unsettled Kevin Pietersen with some short bowling before clean bowling him. He’ll be happy with his five wickets. We gave him a 7.
Imran Tahir – Tahir looked a bit nervous and unsure of himself when he was thrown the ball. He didn’t help himself when his first ball up was a full toss that was dispatched to the boundary. But Tahir grew in confidence as the skipper Smith kept encouraging him and he got better as the game went on, turning the ball both ways and even getting some bounce out of the wicket. He’ll also be happy with his four wickets but we’re hoping he does better. We’d like to see more of his mad celebrations. We gave him a 6.
How would you have rated the Proteas? Leave a comment below!