Top of the ICC tree

2009-01-30 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s tour ended where it began, at the Waca in Perth, and in-between they produced six weeks of sustained brilliance, with more than a hint of resilience and found the happy knack of finding a way to win from even the smallest corners.

Yesterday’s 39-run win at the Waca not only sealed a comprehensive 4-1 ODI series triumph, it also confirmed the Proteas one-day unit as the world’s best.

There have been mutterings all summer about their superiority, but Johan Botha has now done what even Graeme Smith fell short of achieving.

He has wrestled the ICC bragging rights off Ricky Ponting in Australia, with a collection of composed displays and with a side that has missed several of its stalwarts.

The Proteas even had the luxury of fielding two bowling debutants yesterday, and still the momentum was not lost.

Mickey Arthur this week said his side is not yet ready to wear the mantle of world number one, as they are a work in progress.

But there are signs, ominous ones at that, to suggest that this outfit will soon be primed to usher in a new era of domination.

There have been several heroes throughout the tour, and yesterday Hashim Amla rose to the occasion. So often down under, the stylish Natalian has threatened without really converting his starts. He fell three agonising runs short of a deserved century yesterday after he and AB de Villiers had added 118 for the third wicket.

De Villiers’ 60 was another classy knock and he fell whilst trying to raise the tempo.

There was still time for JP Duminy to sign off his stunning introduction to the world with a slick 60 off 42 balls.

That the Proteas still scored heavily in the final 10 overs despite Albie Morkel failing further emphasises the confidence within the ranks.

Duminy simply took over, smashing Mitchell Johnson straight over his head for six, before repeating the treatment on an off-colour Nathan Bracken.

Even Botha got in on the act, reverse-sweeping Bracken as South Africa amassed 288 for six, an impressive total that was set up by an imperious 97 Hashim Amla.

The Aussies needed something special, but it never came.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe impressed on debut, snaring the in-form duo of Shaun Marsh and Ponting in his first spell, on his way to figures of 4/50.

The beaming left-armer also held his nerve to remove a well-set Mike Hussey, and took the catch off Brad Haddin to end even the faintest of Aussie hopes.

Botha was again exemplary in his control, going at below four an over to complete an excellent series with the ball.

He would have been a worthy candidate for man of the series. Then again, that goes for several others in his line-up, especially Duminy.

In the end, Albie Morkel got the nod, as much for his hitting as for his clever bowling and smart fielding.

It has been a tour of colossal achievement for South Africa.

With several warhorses nursing wounds, the challenge will be to reach those heights again on home turf. After the last few weeks down under, only the odd Aussie would bet against them.

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