Quality is the operative word

2012-01-07 20:12

South Africa took a lot of heat off themselves with their emphatic four-day victory over Sri Lanka in Cape Town, but in a way that merely added more fuel to the perception of the fans.

Led by Jacques Kallis, the greatest cricketer of the modern game, the Sri Lankans were blown away by 10 wickets, the quality of the performance matching the margin of victory.

And quality is the operative word.

Because that is the over-riding feature of a side that boasts the sort of talent in the line-up that should be the envy of the other nine Test-playing nations.

Other than perhaps an opening batsman’s berth, the number six position and the spinner, every post in the team is filled by a world-class, proven star, a challenger for a place in a World XI.

But their actual record as a team is another story.

A 208-run defeat by a Sri Lankan team that has perhaps half their talent in Durban in the previous test understandably caused immense frustration among Proteas’ followers.

While captain Graeme Smith acknowledged the team’s continued failure to meet expectations at Kingsmead, he seemed surprised by the public reaction, which has been partly quelled by their slick Newlands showing.

“Someone always seems to be on the chopping block, whether it’s Jacques having bad eyes or something else. But we haven’t lost too many Tests at home, we’ve just lacked a killer punch and Durban was again a big disappointment for us,” Smith said.

“That was a big wake-up call for the team because that was not the sort of performance expected of us. But there’s a lot to build on from this win and the way we won was the most important thing.

“We’ve played well at home, just not in Durban. It’s our job to turn that around. We just need to improve in Durban, but we haven’t had a great time in one-day cricket there either, so I think it’s a venue thing.”

Kallis celebrated his 150th Test in style as he plundered a career-best 224 off the Sri Lankan attack, took three for 35 to wrap up their second innings and took a South African record-equalling six catches in the match.

“To play my 150th Test here, to have the team’s victory and, from a personal point of view, to have the sort of performance you dream of – I couldn’t have asked for better,” Kallis said.

While Kallis shut up his critics in the most emphatic fashion, the vultures are still circling around wicketkeeper/batsman Mark Boucher’s head, although Smith had his back.

“There’s no problem with Boucher. It was the first time I’ve seen him drop a catch in ages. He took nearly 10 catches in Pretoria [eight in the first Test at Centurion] and everyone was raving about his performance. As a gloveman, he’s been excellent for us, ultra-reliable and I think that’s why such a fuss is being made about that one drop. When we go to England, having a reliable wicketkeeper will be crucial,” the captain said. – MWP

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