It's all good
Statistics don’t always tell the full story in sport, as we know, but don’t ever say “statistics lie” within earshot of somebody who makes their living out of compiling them. You may regret it. Or be made to regret it. And they have long memories, statisticians.
They tell me that statistics can “be made to lie” which is like saying that guns don’t kill people – it’s the people who pull the triggers on them that kill. Which is entirely fair enough. I have learned my lesson.
So, although some of the statistics of the test series against Pakistan so far might suggest that there has been some modest cricket played, particularly by the visitors, I would strongly disagree. In fact, the standout feature of the contest has been the remorseless commitment of both teams and the consistently high level of cricket played.
That includes Pakistan’s embarrassing tumble to 49 all out. Not a single member of the top seven could be accused of playing a reckless shot and none of them showed anything less than total application. Pushing at an away-swinger from Steyn or Philander than “could have been left” does not constitute a reckless shot!
Which only serves to confirm how astonishingly good the bowling was in Johannesburg and – by extension – how good the 219-run partnership between Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq was on the first day at Newlands.
The bowling was just as intense and the disciplines of line and length rarely faltered. It was just the kind of display Pakistan needed to remind everyone (perhaps even themselves) that they are ranked fourth best in the world and had won six of their last eight test matches before last week.
There was a graciousness after the day among the Proteas which indicated due respect for their opponents, too. Make no mistake, the confrontation was intense and many a verbal bouncer and inswinger was delivered to accompany the physical ones. But both centuries were applauded by the fielding side and there was no trace of arrogance or entitlement. The Proteas will not turn their noses up at an easy win, but they are not afraid of a fight, either.
This series could yet turn out to be the hard-fought one we all hoped for when Misbah and his team arrived three weeks ago.