Shafiek Abrahams

Time to take stock

2006-05-19 10:23

Shafiek Abrahams

The domestic cricket season finally concluded a week into May and this resulted in very 'sporting' pitches being prepared for the Test matches against the New Zealand Black Caps.

The weather conditions played a major role in the outcome of these matches but the South Africans can take some positives out of a somewhat drawn out season.

The emergence of Ashwell Prince as one of the top batsmen in the Test arena this season augers well for the future along with the steady improvement of Dale Steyn as an opening partner for Makhaya Ntini.

Princes along with Jacques Kallis were the only batsmen to score two centuries this season while Prince was dismissed in the nineties as well.

He has developed into a very handy and reliable middle-order batsman who has matured in the number five spot. The way he finished the last Test under a bit of pressure as wickets kept falling has shown that he has settled into the role required from him.

Steyn is the other player who came through this season and ended on a high thanks to impressive performances during the last few Tests. He came back into the team after being left out because of poor form and injury but returned with a bang. He bowled with pace and got the ball to swing away from the right-handed batsmen and complimented Ntini, who mainly moves it back into the right-handers.

Another player who got a recall and took his chance with both hands was Hashim Amla. He came back into the Proteas team at the expense of Herschelle Gibbs and has done nicely. He got one fifty and a big hundred and has shown the talent and promise that he displayed in the domestic competitions. Amla ended in the top three aggregate runs scorers in the SuperSport Series for two years running and was rewarded with a call up for the New Zealand series.

Although some of the younger or less experienced players performed well this year, some of the old warhorses also excelled. Ntini was by far the best bowler this year while Jacques Kallis was his usual reliable self. Captain Graeme Smith had a patchy season and did not dominate the bowlers as he did a few seasons ago.

The biggest disappointment must have been the deteriorating form of Shaun Pollock. He lost some pace and swing but also handed the new ball over which makes one think that he could be on his way out the team. His batting needs to improve and do justice to the talent he's shown previously in order for him to play as a first or second change bowler.

The Proteas still need a spin bowler to dominate and bowl teams out or keep one end tied up if required to do so. With all the new faces in the team starting to put good performances together, South Africa can start nurturing a few more for the World Cup in the West Indies next year. The work has begun to put together a competitive team for the biggest competition in cricket.

With the likes of AB de Villiers, Smith, an inform Herschelle Gibbs, all-rounders Kemp and Kallis along with Ntini, Steyn and Nel, the season ahead could be a memorable one.

Let's hope the players will have a good and well-earned break and come back firing on all cylinders for next season.

I cannot wait for the World Cup season to begin!

  • Shafiek Abrahams is a former Proteas spinner

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