A Test series where players are down but not out …

2012-01-12 00:00

THE Test series between Sri Lanka and South Africa reminded us once more that Test cricket is not only alive, but thriving. All three games yielded results and were fast-paced and entertaining with run rates exceeding 3.5 runs an over.

Sri Lanka did not get rolled as predicted. Led by gutsy Tillakaratne Dilshan, they fought hard and were competitive. Their morale boosting victory in Durban, their first ever in South Africa, was testament to the positive brand of cricket they play.

There were impressive run chases, great bowling spells and gutsy fight backs, none more so than that of Jacques Kallis. Watching Kallis, one of the world’s greatest Test batsmen, being felled by a bouncer from Dilharo Fernando in the first Test at Centurion was not a pleasant sight. The media onslaught that ensued wasn’t pretty either. There was talk that Kallis was losing his edge and even hints that it was time for him to move on.

These “knocks” clearly took their toll on Kallis and his “pair” at Kingsmead, where he looked completely out of sorts. His failure to trouble the scorers fuelled all sorts of media speculation regarding his future.

What a difference one game can make. In his 150th Test match at Newlands Kallis showed his class and his character. He answered his critics with a superb all-round performance in front of his home crowd. With his second double Test century, three crucial wickets and six spectacular catches he was the undisputed man of the match.

Vernon Philander, who returned to the South African attack for the third Test, proved his ability to take wickets on any surface. South Africa is a better team with him in the side, even though it must have been tough for Protea coach Gary Kirsten to leave out Marchant de Lange after his seven-wicket haul on debut.

Although many feel that Morné Morkel is not at his best, the combination of Steyn and Morkel remains formidable, while Imran Tahir’s exuberance and obvious passion for his trade is refreshing. Man of the series AB de Villiers has the ability to make runs without you noticing. Scoring 353 runs at an average of over a hundred, he proved to be the leading run scorer ahead of Thilan Samaraweera and Kallis. Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph are yet to fire. The knives are out for Mark Boucher to hold his position in the squad — he’s tense and less confident, but he’s a fighter.

For Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakarra reminded us why he is the number one ranked Test batsman in world cricket and Samaraweera at the age of 35 showed he still has much to offer Sri Lankan cricket. Rangana Herath, who bowled the most overs in the series, exemplifies the vital role an orthodox left-arm spinner plays in a Test team.

The one-day series promises to be equally exciting with South Africa and Sri Lanka jostling for position in the ODI rankings.

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