Proteas stand an outside chance

2010-12-23 12:53

When Mickey Arthur ­resigned at the end of ­January, it was an unseemly start to the year for the ­Proteas, who were days away from a tour to India, the country that had taken their number one ranking.

And yet, at the end of this year, the national team is hardly ailing, having the chance to regain that number one ranking early next year and showing some encouraging signs of form in the ­one-day arena.

Captain Graeme Smith has spent the last week berating the nation for not showing enough appreciation for his team’s achievements.

The most noteworthy of these achievements have, however, been individual ­performances.

Dale Steyn is undeniably the best fast bowler in the world and has picked up 52 wickets in 10 Tests this year at an average of 22.59.

And the long wait for Morne Morkel to develop ­into a consistently threatening strike bowler seems to be coming to an end as the lanky 26-year-old took 44 wickets at 24.18 this year.

While Steyn and Morkel have been a wonderful new-ball pair, it is the batting that should really have South ­Africans marvelling, as the top six have enjoyed an amazing year.

Hashim Amla, Jacques ­Kallis, AB de Villiers and Smith are all among the ­top 10 ­run-scorers in Test cricket this year.

Amla, in particular, has been phenomenal, transforming himself from the deer-in-the-headlights batsman on debut in 2004/05 to one of the most intimidating batsmen to bowl at in world cricket today.

With Kallis still piling on the runs, De Villiers and Smith as punishing as ever, and with Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy ­providing valuable support, South Africa have a batting line-up capable of wrecking any bowling attack.

Their limited-overs cricket remains a work in progress, however, with the prospect of a World Cup on the ­subcontinent in two months’ time enough to scare even their most loyal fans.

While their batsmen can be relied on to make formidable totals, it is the bowlers’ ­ability to kill off games that is worrisome.

Imran Tahir, the Pakistan-born leggie, remains no ­nearer to being available for a team that could use the ­attacking spin option he ­provides.

While questions remain as to who will play as pace-bowling backup to Steyn and Morkel, and who will travel to India as Johan Botha’s ­understudy, South Africa’s current ranking of fourth in One Day International cricket ­suggests it would be foolish not to rate them as ­dangerous outsiders for the World Cup.

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