A year to forget for Proteas

2009-12-31 00:00

ENGLAND completed the most emphatic of Test victories at Kingsmead yesterday, to take a critical lead in the four-match series.

It was a massive stroke of irony that the Kingsmead big screen was showing re-runs of South Africa’s highest of highs, this time last year at Melbourne.

Just a year later, South Africa’s supposed new dawn has been reduced to rubble after a defeat by an innings and 98 runs by a rejuvenated England side.

The remaining four wickets were snapped up in just over an hour, as the Proteas failed to rouse themselves as they had done in Melbourne so magically.

But the damage had been done on the fourth evening, as six big wickets fell for 23 runs in just 71 minutes.

Graeme Smith called it a massive wake-up call, and strongly hinted that there would be changes in Cape Town.

“It’s been massively disappointing the way the last few days have gone. It has also been hard to accept that we had no answers for all of England’s pressure.

“We now have to look hard at ourselves and make the necessary adjustments for Newlands,” the crestfallen skipper said.

“We allowed England to get ahead, and it was a case of catch-up cricket from then on.

“To be fair, though, England were a lot more precise than we were and credit must go to them for an outstanding performance.”

Smith cited the manner in which they allowed England to get off to a quick start in the first innings as the key turning point in the contest.

“We allowed them to get ahead with some very loose bowling upfront, and that is a concern going forward,” Smith explained.

“The top six was also a disappointment, obviously, but these are guys who have done well for a period of time and one collapse should not necessitate sweeping changes.”

The fall for South Africa in 2009 has been spectacular, as the consolation win over Australia in Cape Town was their sole success in the ultimate form of the game.

Smith lamented his hugely talented side’s inability to take themselves to the next level after iconic series wins in Pakistan, England and, of course, Australia.

“2009 has been a big disappointment after all of the hype we created through our results in 2008. We now have to make sure that 2010 starts off on the right note with a big turnaround in Cape Town.”

On the flip side, England leader Andrew Strauss put this performance up there as “certainly our finest performance away from home”.

“It is very satisfying when we execute our plans exactly as we have laid them out,” a beaming Strauss reflected.

“Coming into this game, a few of our lads were under severe pressure and it has been magnificent to see their response here.”

Strauss, steeling himself for a big response from the wounded Proteas, said though his side are in a good position they still have a lot of work to do.

“South Africa is a proud team, with a lot of quality players, and we have to be ready for them to come back hard at us in Cape Town.”

Smith and company will bid farewell to the most trying of years, one in which they had grand plans to pull away at the top of the Test table, but now find themselves right back in the scrapping pack of pretenders to the ICC Test throne.

The turnaround to Cape Town is very hasty, which may be just as well for the Proteas, as they seek to distance themselves from their worst performance in a very long time.

SCOREBOARD

South Africa first innings 343 (G. Smith 75, J. Kallis 75, A. de Villiers 50; G. Swann 4-110)

England first innings 574 for nine declared (A. Strauss 54, A. Cook 118, P. Collingwood 91, I. Bell 140, M. Prior 60; M. Morkel 3-78, J-P. Duminy 3-89)

South Africa second innings

A Prince c Bell b Swann16

G. Smith lbw b Swann22

H. Amla b Swann6

J. Kallis b Broad3

A. de Villiers lbw b Broad2

J-P. Duminy b Broad0

M. Boucher c Prior b Broad29

M. Morkel lbw b Swann15

P. Harris c Broad b Anderson36

D. Steyn lbw b Swann3

M. Ntini not out1

Extras0

TOTAL (all out, 50 overs) 133

Fall of wickets: 1-27 2-37 3-40 4-44 5-44 6-50 7-86 8-108 9-129 10-133

Bowling: Anderson 8-2-24-1, Onions 4-1-12-0, Swann

21-3-54-5, Broad 17-3-43-4

Result: England win by an innings and 98 runs

Man of the Match: Graeme Swann

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