There is a cloud of gloom hanging over the Proteas as they go into the final Test
Things can change quickly and dramatically in sport – just ask Faf du Plessis and his Proteas.
Just after Christmas, the Proteas were in full festive regalia, celebrating a great start to the new Mark Boucher/Graeme Smith “regime” with a resounding 107-run victory over England in the first Test.
Here we go, we all thought: A series win for South Africa to get us into the right spirit for the New Year.
Instead, there is a cloud of gloom hanging over the Proteas as they go into the final Test, which starts at the Wanderers “Bullring” today.
England were convincing winners in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and the best South Africa can hope for now is to draw the series 2-2.
The problem is that the Proteas are battling on several fronts.
The batting has been poor in the last two Tests, with several of the top order playing irresponsible shots at crucial times. Captain Du Plessis is desperately searching for form. And Kagiso Rabada, the spearhead of the attack, will not be in action as he is serving a one-match ban.
In terms of the batting, there has not been one partnership of more than 100 runs in the last two Tests, which is a real concern.
Du Plessis has always been a resilient fighter at the crease, and he showed flashes of that in the second innings in Port Elizabeth before being dismissed for 36. His country needs a big innings from him.
As for Rabada, hopefully he will have learnt his lesson to channel his aggression (and let’s face it, being aggressive is an essential part of any fast bowler’s make-up) in the right way.
Kevin Pietersen made the excellent point during his TV commentary in PE that Rabada can be as aggressive as he likes, but that he should not be entering the personal space of the batsman.
It is a great pity Rabada will not be around at the Bullring, as the Wanderers is invariably a good track for the quick men.
Nevertheless, the Wanderers has been the scene of some memorable victories in the history of SA cricket. Let’s hope there is another instalment of that this weekend.