Some more, please sir

2011-01-08 00:00

I WAS surely not the only one who felt like asking India and South Africa for one last helping of the feast of cricket that they have served up this summer.

Wickets tumbled, runs were collected with style and substance, and throughout the quality never wavered — save for the final day when a truce was called rather limply.

At the end of any series, particularly one as thrilling as the one served up by Test cricket’s leading sides, it is par for the course to reflect on the seemingly endless supply of daily drama.

And before we rabbit on about the players, perhaps a word on the surfaces provided for them to produce such a compelling series.

Centurion was hampered by a deluge of rain, so it cannot be compared fairly with the tracks in Durban and Cape Town.

Both Wilson Ngobese and Evan Flint (Kingsmead and Newlands groundsmen, respectively) received much praise from players and pundits alike for tracks that encouraged a fair battle between willow and leather.

As MS Dhoni cheekily noted, even Harbhajan Singh can make back-to-back hundreds on the benign pitches of the subcontinent, so this was a refreshing change for everyone involved.

Both sides will look back on small moments that could have proved decisive, especially during the decider in Cape Town.

Dhoni, amidst pride at the mongrel that lives within his side, rued that they got one wicket away from “something very special”.

Graeme Smith said his side was somewhat relieved at having recovered from being on the verge of collapse just after lunch on day four.

Having moved on from 130 for 6, Smith had the fate of the match in his hands. That he chose to bat out the penultimate day and make the game safe was criticised by some, but that is just the Protea way.

Better safe than sorry, you could say.

And his barely disguised lamenting of Paul Harris’s effectiveness on the final day suggests even Smith has tired of the left-armer’s limitations.

Once Jacques Kallis was unable to bowl, the pressure on Harris was even bigger. He simply had to inspire the side on that final day. That he went wicketless was not so much a concern as it was a howler.

Spinners, at the sharp end of Test cricket, should have enough in their armoury to be a real handful late in a match.

That is one of South Africa’s biggest stumbling blocks in their quest to be the best in the world. The ability to consistently take 20 wickets is crucial to domination, and a potent attack gives the captain licence to be a lot more cavalier in his approach.

India have Harbhajan, England have Graeme Swann. Of course, Australia had Shane Warne, and they have spiralled out of contention as soon as he left the scene.

All three men mentioned above would have licked their lips at the prospect of bowling on an up-and down Newlands pitch.

If Smith had, for argument’s sake, an attacking wrist-spinner up his sleeve, perhaps he would have dangled a carrot in front of the Indians, knowing that he had a really good chance of winning himself.

He couldn’t be that foolish with a ‘throttler’ as his only real source of spin. That Smith’s own part-time twirlers turned sharper than those of Harris was almost laughable.

South African cricket knows what it is missing, and it must now be ruthless enough to go and get it.

It may yet provide that final piece of the jigsaw.

Dale Steyn is peerless in the art of swing and speed, while Morné Morkel is becoming a trusty lieutenant. Lonwabo Tsotsobe needs to find an extra yard or five of pace, or else he will suffer on the many featherbeds that litter the cricket world.

And this bad luck of his needs investigating.

Perhaps “Lopsy”, as he is called, may have angered the ancestors with his diamond earrings and Diesel jeans.

A return to the homestead, with a beast or three to appease the ancestors, may be in order – and before the World Cup bus departs.

The next time South Africa play a Test will be deep into the year against Australia. They will have a new coach, perhaps a new mindset — and, surely, a new spinner.

India know that their illustrious middle-order is in its autumn, though Sachin Tendulkar continues to defy age and angry fast bowlers with broad bat and an even broader list of accomplishments.

We will not see his like again.

India themselves are in transition.

That they came back to square the series, after starting so poorly in Pretoria, says much about the bloody-mindedness instilled in them by Gary Kirsten.

Not one member of the visiting side had a bad word to say about the former South African opener. His international coaching career couldn’t have started any better if he had tried, and the only thing that India may want him to do now is deliver a World Cup on home soil.

The whole Indian army went to Kirsten’s abode in Cape Town for a party after the Test series had ended.

The Proteas will be hoping that the next get-together at that address has an altogether more South African theme.

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