Proteas coach Mark Boucher will be relieved after his team beat the West Indies by 158 runs on Monday to secure their first away series win in four years.
JOHANNESBURG – Showing grit with the bat, skill and intensity with the ball, allied with superb catching, the Proteas claimed a first Test series win away from home in four years.
They did so in unforgettable fashion on Monday, with left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj claiming just the second Test hat-trick by a South African player. The outcome will relieve some of the pressure on head coach Mark Boucher and his coaching staff, while it also gets Dean Elgar’s tenure as Test captain off to a good start.
For the players, the triumph will be viewed as just reward for the hard work they’ve put in at training in the last 12 months, and will lift their confidence which has been at a low ebb for a long time.
Many will of course question the standard of the opposition, but it is worth remembering that the West Indies were ranked above South Africa before the series, and were also feeling good about themselves having gone unbeaten in their previous four Tests, that included a series win in Bangladesh.
South Africa had plenty to prove, not only to their supporters at home, desperate for some good news about the sport following years of administrative mayhem, but for the players as well, who have struggled amidst the problems in Cricket SA’s boardroom
They went into the fourth day on Monday needing to pick up 10 wickets, knowing that while the West Indies had been poor with the bat, not topping 200 in any of their four innings, but there was the knowledge they had chased some big totals in the fourth innings in the recent past.
However the hosts lost the wickets of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope within the first half an hour of the day, to put them on the back foot. There followed a 74-run partnership for the third wicket between Kieran Powell and Kyle Mayers to raise the spirits in the home dressing room.
But then came a chaotic 30 minutes before lunch, which featured a historic moment for Maharaj.
Before that Mayers slogged at Kagiso Rabada, skying a top edge that Elgar, running back from first slip, did well to hold onto.
Powell, having just registered 50, decided to take on Maharaj, 10 minutes before lunch, slog sweeping him, but picking out Anrich Nortjé, the only boundary fielder South Africa had posted on the leg-side boundary.
Shell shocked by the quick dismissals of two established batsmen, worse was to follow for the hosts. Jason Holder, pushed forward at his first delivery, got an inside edge onto his pads that flew quickly toward short leg where Keegan Petersen showed excellent reflexes to claim the catch.
Elgar understandably surrounded the new batsman Da Silva, who flicked at a ball down legside, with Wiaan Mulder, pulling off one of the catches of the year at leg-slip, going down to his right and hanging on to the ball one-handed.
The celebrations were wild; half the team dashing towards Maharaj who was doing a belly dive at backward point, and was then tackled to the ground by Rabada and Ngidi, while the close-in fielders went towards Mulder to wrap him up for the stunning catch.
Maharaj wrapped the match, taking two more wickets, registering a fifth Test ‘five-for’ in the process.
The series win was the result of performances across the board, led by the seniors players; Quinton de Kock’s outstanding century in the first Test, the three fast bowlers; Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortjé bullying the home team’s batsmen.
In the second Test, South Africa had to work harder, with Elgar, De Kock and Rassie van der Dussen making vital half-centuries. Maharaj and Mulder contributed with the ball, while South Africa’s fielding was of a very high quality, with Mulder, part of a new slips cordon, in particular, outstanding.
The only sad part is that South Africa don’t get to build on this victory quickly, with the next Test series only scheduled for December this year.
For now, they will celebrate this success, because wins, especially away from home, have been very rare of late.
Day 4 of 5;
South Africa 298 and 174
West Indies 149 and 165/9 all out
South Africa won by 158 runs
South Africa win the series 2-0