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Mission accomplished - and then some


One of the best things that came out of the recently completed test series between South Africa and Australia is the fact that all speculation around the wicket-keeping position should be put to rest.

The performance of AB de Villiers in the third test match silenced all his critics and made a mockery of the suggestion that he can't fill the dual role for South Africa in test cricket. His form slump with the bat had nothing to do with the wicket-keeping aspect. It was simply due to a technical issue with his footwork and would have happened whether he was keeping or not. The continuing discussion around this aspect was distracting for him and the team, and should thankfully now be at an end. In fact the only people suggesting that De Villiers shouldn't keep are opposition teams who know that if he doesn't, it will play into their hands by weakening the team.

The third test match in Perth proved what we already knew and that is that the Proteas are a far superior team to the current Australian side. It was always going to be a matter of South Africa dominating an emerging and relatively weak Australian combination once the Proteas collectively hit their straps. This is exactly what happened in Perth. During the first two test matches there were some brilliant individual performances by the Proteas but it took till the second morning of the third match for them to gel as a unit and dominate Australia completely.

Two other good things came out of this series as well for the Proteas. The emergence of Faf du Plessis was a joy to watch and Robin Peterson grabbed his opportunity with both hands and put in a superb performance in Perth. Both have bright futures ahead of them. The No 1 spot on the test rankings will belong with the Proteas for a long time to come judging by their performance in the final test match.

The Aussies face a whole different set of circumstances. They have a brilliant batsman and captain in Michael Clarke but he is fighting a lone battle. He gets help occasionally from the other veteran in the team, Michael Hussey. As for the rest of the batting order there is no consistency either in the top three or the late order. Australia believe that they have an emerging pace attack with good young fast bowlers but the reality is that these prodigies are always injured and virtually never play together.

The leadership group in coach Mickey Arthur and convenor of selectors John Inverarity have made a number of questionable decisions and inspire anything but confidence. The Aussies play Sri Lanka next whom they should beat. After that they go to India for four test matches and then the Ashes series in England. Unless something dramatic happens to improve things for them they are facing some tough times.

The Proteas return home to face New Zealand and then Pakistan neither of whom is expected to stretch the No 1 test team in world cricket too much. It is very much a case of job done for South Africa with victories over England and Australia and easier times to come. A healthy situation to say the least.


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