Author : Suhithkumar
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South Africa continue to remain unbeaten in a Test series away from home since 2006 with a resounding win over Pakistan by an innings and 92 runs in Dubai yesterday. What has made this gargantuan of a task possible? Inspite of their frailties against spin, they have given sub-continent teams a lot to ponder over, especially, India and Sri Lanka and that has made this feat even more delicious. We take a look at 5 factors that have contributed to their successful run away from home in Tests since 2006.
Without a shadow of doubt, Amla has not only been a prolific run-scorer for them but at times, you can’t think of a lot of batsmen around the world who have made runs at the rate he has done ever since his debut in 2004. He has been a staunch pillar around which South African batting has revolved and his ability to thwart the likes of Harbhajan, Muralitharan and even Ajmal in spinner-friendly conditions has been astonishing.
His habits before facing up to a delivery is infuriating, but his touch play and the way he uses his wrists to flick balls off his hip just makes him literally impossible to bowl to. Whenever South Africa have found themselves in a spot of bother, Amla has been the man to the rescue. For me, he has been the biggest factor due to which South Africa are No.1 and also, his capability to accumulate runs in any given conditions has been a blessing to South Africa even when the Kallises and Smiths have struggled. No wonder, he finds himself at No.1 in this list.
An all-round pace battery
A well-equipped pace battery goes a long way in how your team progresses. And when you have the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini and even Charl Langeveldt, who can clock 140 KMPH on a consistent basis, as a captain you can always keep the batting side in check. In the current Proteas’ setup, Steyn continues to be the leader of the bowling attack and deservedly so, in Morne Morkel, Steyn has got an able partner at the other end and when they bowl in tandem, you got to be surprised if the batting team isn’t terrorized.
When they have toured England and Australia, where the conditions are pretty relevant to what they come up with in Durban, Centurion and Cape Town, the job isn’t a daunting one and that is the reason why I say, their record in Sub-continent conditions has kept them in good stead.
World class all-rounder in Jacques Kallis
There can be no cynicism when you say, “Kallis has been the best all-rounder in the current era”. Piling up more than 13K runs to date and having picked up 288 wickets in Test cricket, you got to believe that he has done a lot more than what you would expect out of an all-rounder. There aren’t any shortcomings as far his batting repertoire is concerned and when it comes to his bowling, he is very adept at bowling the heavy ball, clever changes in pace and is a hot cup of coffee to handle for a batsman.
Not only has his individual skills and performances helped South Africa but, his partnership with Amla at No.3 is a feared batting combination for a fielding captain. Their level of consistency, cool exterior under pressure and knowing the nuances of building an innings just makes them invincible at times.
To go with his batting and bowling capabilities, he is a great slip fielder too with 198 Test catches till date. When you see Dhoni lamenting over India’s inadequacy to produce a genuine all-rounder, you invariably think of Kallis and that is where South Africa have been fortunate. Because, excluding Kallis, Klusener himself was a handy all-rounder and Shaun Pollock at No.7 cannot be discounted as well with his batting capabilities. Kallis deserves a special mention when you talk about South Africa’s rise to the top of the Test rankings and also their stupendous record away from home since 2006.
All great teams of the past and the current two best Test teams in England and South Africa have had a chock-a-block squad that is capable of producing the goods collectively on a consistent basis. Yes, Graeme Smith might not have had a stable opening partner but just taking a look at their probable 11 in the last 5-6 years, Smith has opened with Mckenzie, Ashwell prince and Peterson currently, Amla at No.3, Kallis at No.4, De-Villiers at No.5, Duminy at 6 and before Boucher retired, he batted at 7 followed by Steyn, Morkel to go with another fast bowler and a spinner just gives you a complete 11 to work with that covers all departments of the game.
Because they have had an all-round squad, they haven’t relied on individuals heavily. When they chased a record 4th innings score of 414 to win the Test match at the WACA in 2008, except Mckenzie, everyone played their part well. Centuries to Smith and De-Villiers, half-centuries to Amla, Kallis and Duminy enabled them to make light work of what looked a massive ask before they walked out to bat. It is due to performances such as these that they have been unshakable away from home since 2006.
Dip in form of other teams at the time
Australia’s domination in world cricket started coming down when they lost the Ashes to England in England in 2005, Drew the home Test series with India in 2004 and you didn’t really see the imperious Australia of old. India were still pondering over the Ganguly-Chappell confrontation in 2005 and weren’t really consistent with their performances, England were nowhere close to what they are today, Pakistan and Sri Lanka weren’t doing too good either.
But, people who came into the South African squad started firing on all cylinders and more nor often, their performances in Test matches hardly ever looked horrendous. They didn’t have a packed schedule like India have always had and that has meant more time to rest and recuperate, keep your fast bowlers in shape and have gone about their job in a serene manner away from the spotlight.
After the series leveling victory over Pakistan yesterday, Smith said, ”I think we have got a lot to do to be compared with great teams, but for us to have that record away from home is an extremely proud one to have,”. South Africa totally deserve it and for me, it’s only a matter of time before they get ‘chokers’ tag off their back.