THE victory in Centurion was a much-needed one for South Africa and is sure to boost the morale of the players, and there are plenty of positives to build with some hope for the future.
A specialist opener was picked in the case of Stephen Cook, albeit belatedly, while Quinton de Kock looks to have solidified the position as wicketkeeper and the continued improvement of Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada means that South Africa have something to look forward to.
Stephen Cook’s performance was brilliant and that will provide some stability at the top of the order. There are many of us that have been calling for his selection for some time, but he’s one of those unfashionable guys. He plays in a traditional way and was just ignored for some time. It was difficult for him to get into the side when the likes of Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen were playing.
The selectors will be kicking themselves that they didn’t pick him sooner because he played really well and has the right make-up for an opening batsman. He’s 33, but he will have two or three good years left in him so there’s plenty to look forward to from a selection point of view.
It’s only going to get better too when Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander return to fitness. That combination will win matches so there are definitely reasons to be hopeful.
AB de Villiers’ form may be a little bit of a worry, but I don’t think it’s the burden of captaincy. If we look at his one-day captaincy, it’s never upset his performance. Test captaincy is a lot more difficult and I just think this is a lapse in form. There’s plenty of time before South Africa’s next Test, so it is an issue that will be looked at.
AB is the type of guy who will try to persevere and he’s got a good argument to carry on after leading the team to their first Test win in a year.
England took their foot off the gas in the final Test, and I’ve been involved in these type of dead rubbers. If you’ve played the week before and won the series, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t have the same intensity.
Catches were dropped again, but if you look at the set-up there are still three batting spots up for grabs with Alex Hales, Nick Compton and James Taylor not yet consolidating their places. It’s not often you win a series with three batsmen who are not convincing and you drop as many chances.
In terms of the one-day series, South Africa have quite a few players who appear in both Test and limited-overs. Their form has been quite good; beating India in India and there are a few dangerous players. This series could have come at the perfect time for AB. The South Africans play a similar aggressive brand that England do and we should be in for some close games and some fireworks. The scores will depend on the surfaces and if they’re good, expect consistent scores of 300 plus.
I was wrong with my Test prediction of 2-1 to South Africa, but I’m going to stick with them and say 3-2 to the home side.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, Friday January 29 2016