South Africa learn valuable lessons from expected victory

Harare: South Africa did not expect to learn much from their one-off test against lowly Zimbabwe but Tuesday’s nine-wicket victory taught them two things – Hashim Amla is a natural-born leader and Dane Piedt has huge potential at international level.

Amla took over from retired Graeme Smith and led the team to a series victory in Sri Lanka last month. He was intelligent again in Harare in the way he utilised his bowlers and for an individual who had previously shunned leadership positions, he looked comfortable in the role.

"I have enjoyed it, even though we have not been able to play the attacking cricket we would have wanted to given the conditions in Sri Lanka and now here in Zimbabwe,” Amla told reporters on Tuesday.

"But we have played smart cricket to get the job done and that makes us look forward to tests to come.”

With success on their recent travels, it has been over eight years since South Africa last lost an away test series. Amla believes it is a record to be proud of but not one that should shape their thinking in matches.

“It’s a wonderful record to have, you want to hang on to records like that but also not be afraid to push for victories. We don’t want to make it such a factor that we change our decision-making in a game because of it.”

Piedt recorded match figures of eight for 152, the best ever by a South African spin bowler on test debut, and also became the 19th player to take a wicket with his first ball in test cricket.

Granted he was playing on a helpful wicket against weak opposition, but the 24-year-old showed enough control and guile to suggest he could be the answer to the country’s spin woes.

“He bowled exceptionally well, it did turn and offer assistance but he stuck to good lines,” Amla said.

“I know as a youngster coming into the South African cricket team how difficult it can be but the enthusiasm he has shown in training and in matches has been great.”

The disappointment for Piedt, who was also part of the touring squad to Sri Lanka, is that the Proteas’ next test is four months away at home to the West Indies.

“The last month and a half has been brilliant, being around such legends of the game has been great and it was a dream debut for me,” Piedt said.

“I told myself just to be patient and land the ball in the right areas.

“There was so much assistance that I did not need to use my variations, by top-spinner and cannonball, it was about being patient. Wickets are a reward for patience.”

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