Home Sport Cricket Say what you want, the Proteas are on fire again

Say what you want, the Proteas are on fire again

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South Africa – Cape Town – 11 January 2022 -Kagiso Rabada of South Africa celebrates his wicket with teammates after weeketkeeper Kyle Verrynne cought Virat Kohli of India at Six Gun Grill Newlands stadium in the third test of the Betway India Tour.The two teams comes to the third test being 1-1 in the series. Photograph : Phando Jikelo/ANA

I’ve been impressed by what I saw in the Test series – a series I expected the hosts to get a spierwit whitewash in, writes MATTHEW MARCUS

WHAT an encouraging start to the new year for South African cricket.

Let me be honest and tell you I maar had some skraal hopes for the Proteas ahead of India’s current tour.

But I’ve been impressed by what I saw in the Test series – a series I expected the hosts to get a spierwit whitewash in.

It couldn’t have been easy to summon up the performances that they did over the festive period, with the rest of South Africa enjoying their families and friends – not against the world’s top-ranked five-day side.

And certainly not with Cricket South Africa (CSA) set to investigate the appointment of coach Mark Boucher by his BFF and director of cricket Graeme Smith.

Still, Dean Elgar and his troops blocked out all the noise and fought for each other. And for the sacrifices that they made for the good of the team, I have to commend them.

The team may have done away with the Protea Fire culture, but it never looked as alive as it does now – rising out of the ground while their building is burning to ashes.

Maar nou ja. You couldn’t have asked for a braver bunch of sportsmen.

And I’d like to pick out the manne who showed real grit out there in the Test arena against those Indians – who are such a streetwise side even Australia buckle against them.

Let’s start with the man up front, the leader and the warrior – captain Elgar.

Elgar has been getting the respect he deserves lately. The opener dug deep with his partner Aiden Markram sukkeling for form.

You’d have hoped that the skipper had stuck around for longer at the crease and scored more runs.

But with all the body shots he took from the India quicks, one really has to give him his due for doing his job up top.

His unbeaten 96 in the second-Test victory was a top knock and will go down as the innings that gave the Proteas the belief that they can compete with the big boys.

However, his leadership to druk op Kagiso Rabada’s nommer was probably the most inspired thing he did in the series.

It’s obvious now to say that he was right to light a fire under KG’s gat and get him in the zone, as he ripped through the Indians in their second innings in the second Test.

But confrontation is not an easy thing in team dynamics and he must have thought about the words he was going to use for a long time.

People don’t take kindly to criticism, no matter how constructive it is. And to say that in a way that got the desired results and no ugly fallout is a captain’s dream.

That of course brings us to Rabada himself, who deserves credit for his performance.

At the start of the series, he looked like he had no lus and was giving away no balls laat dit goed gaan.

If can’t find the rhythm in your run-up, then you are just not focused.

But KG got his groove back led the attack with real voema, setting a great example for Marco Jansen, who I’m a huge fan of after this series.

Marco Jansen of South Africa celebrates with teammates after getting the wicket of KL Rahul of India during day 2 of the third 2021 Betway Test Series game between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on 12 January 2022 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Beanpole Jansen gets compared to Morné Morkel often because of their height, but the newbie is more controlled and skilful. And being the much-needed leftie in the pace attack, he has a bright future.

Another man with the world at his feet is Keegan Petersen. We’ve been waiting a while to see the real KP.

South Africa’s Keegan Petersen celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs) during the second day of the third Test cricket match between South Africa and India at Newlands stadium in Cape Town on January 12, 2022. (Photo by Marco Longari / AFP)

Two fifties before SA’s second innings at Newlands in the series doesn’t tell the whole story of this Paarl rock’s solid performances. Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching him bat over the summer can’t get enough of him.

His technique has pundits purring about every stroke of his bat.

India great Sunil Gavaskar is obviously a huge fan of the 28-year-old after gushing over his batting. And SA’s own hero ex-batsman AB de Villiers posted on social media that Petersen was lighting it up against the Indian attack.

We’re just waiting on that big maiden Test century now and after four matches into his career, let’s hope it doesn’t get as frustrating as Rassie van der Dussen’s purgatory.

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