South Africa show yet again why they are No. 1

By Suyash Srivastava | Updated: Feb 24, 2014, 22:30 PM IST

Suyash Srivastava

The trademark of a champion side is to bounce back from a point where everybody has written them off. A lot was being said about the South African squad following their mauling at the hands of Australia in the first Test played at SuperSport Park, Centurion which the hosts lost by 281 runs. Mitchell Johnson had once again ripped through a batting line-up with his frightening pace, and it didn’t look as if the Proteas were playing on their home turf.

The kind of form Johnson was in, he troubled the batsmen of the World No. 1 Test side, and made them look like mediocre players, who succumbed to his fearsome pace. Questions were being raised whether South Africa would be able to make a comeback in the series, as the second Test became a must-win game for Graeme Smith and Co.

And Australia were once again on top of the second Test, when Smith and Hashim Amla were back to the pavilion with just 11 runs on the board. But it was from there onwards that the hosts were up for a battle. First Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis stitched a 112-run partnership for the third wicket, and another highlight from South Africa’s first innings was the 149-run partnership between AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, for the sixth wicket.

While AB was at his usual best, it was pleasing to watch Elgar and Duminy bat with such maturity, knowing that it was a massive game for their team.

But what won the game for South Africa was the effort put in by their pacers. Morne Morkel was hailed for bowling one of the best spells of his career, as for a change, he and not Johnson, traumatised the batsmen with the bounce. While the Australian pacers failed to get much purchase from the wicket, Morkel probably bowled his heart out.

Steyn took some time to get back into his groove on the fourth day, but once he did, there was all possibility of a result by the end of the day. Not to forget, South Africa were a bowler short, after Wayne Parnell got injured, and the way Duminy and Elgar chipped in once the play was extended, was commendable.

It was a huge win for a team which is yet to recover from Jacques Kallis`s retirement. The guy (Ryan McLaren), who replaced him in the first Test, couldn`t play the second as a result of a Johnson bouncer which left him severely injured. It only added to South Africa`s woes. Yet, they fought against all the odds, which was a reminder of the fact of what a champion side they have been over the years.

Ahead of the decider, the only matter of concern for both the teams would be the individual form of their skippers. While Michael Clarke has managed to score 60 runs from four innings, Graeme Smith is under-fire after having scored just 37 runs from as many innings. Both the skippers have however managed to compensate for the loss of runs with some superb tactical changes, and would be desperate to contribute in the third Test – which for sure will be a cracker of a contest.