Proteas hold onto top spot

Proteas (AFP)
Proteas (AFP)

Johannesburg - In a year which yielded mixed results for the Proteas, they retained their ranking as the number-one Test playing nation in the world and unleashed a new hero on the One-Day International (ODI) stage.

Gearing up towards the traditional festive season entertainment -- the highlight for cricket fans in South Africa -- the Proteas pulled off a 2-0 series win in a three-match ODI contest against India, with the last match affected by the early December rains.

South Africa romped to victory by 141 and 135 runs in the first and second games and the player of the series was rising star Quinton De Kock, who recorded three consecutive centuries in the series. He was only the fifth man in ODI history to manage such a feat and third South African. Only AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs, and Pakistan's Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar had been there before, with Zaheer Abbas being the only other batsman to get all three successive hundreds against one team -- also against India.

Recently turned 21, De Kock replaced stalwart Graeme Smith in the first match and, following his century at the Wanderers, the selectors decided to give De Kock the opening role for the remainder of the series while Smith was sent back to Cape Town "to focus on the upcoming Test series", Cricket SA said.

The two teams were currently locked in a two-Test battle, with the first match ending in a draw. The second Test starts on December 26 in Durban.

Jumping back to the beginning of the year, there were warning signs for the ODI side in January, when they faced New Zealand at home. It took a Ryan McLaren six -- off the final delivery of the series -- for South Africa to avoid their first limited-overs whitewash on home soil by securing a gripping one-wicket victory in Potchefstroom.

Still, the Proteas lost 2-1 to the lesser-fancied New Zealand outfit in the three-match affair.

South Africa though had already showcased their superiority, earlier in the month, in the longer format, coasting to innings' victories in each of the two Tests against the Black Caps.

In February, the Proteas held onto their form in the Test arena and welcomed Pakistan for a three-Test series, whipping the visitors 3-0.

In what would become a regular meeting of two sides during the year, South Africa ran out 3-2 victors against Pakistan, securing a win in the final ODI match, in Benoni, in March.

In the Twenty/20 International (T20I) affair, Pakistan won the second and final match by 95 runs after the first match had been abandoned without a ball bowled.

After enjoying several weeks playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League in India, the players regrouped for the ICC Champions Trophy in June losing their first match to India in Cardiff.

Though they managed to get to the semi-final stage of the competition -where England thrashed South Africa by seven wickets with 75 balls to spare – the Proteas achieved just one win in the tournament. The victory came against regular foes Pakistan in the group stages, but the Proteas, by their own account, were not good enough to compete for the title.

The real blow, however, came in July when South Africa were brutalised 4-1 in the ODIs by their Sri Lankan hosts. The South African batting line-up was exposed as under-strength and lacking in direction – something the Proteas would vastly improve upon later in the year.

The Proteas were more successful in the T20I series which followed, beating Sri Lanka 2-1 in a three-match contest.

In October, South Africa played their first Test in eight months and, unsurprisingly, lost by seven wickets to Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. The Proteas found their form in the second Test and recorded an innings-and-92-run victory to level the series after bowling out the home side for 99 in the first innings. Chief destroyer was Imran Tahir who took 5/32 and captain Graeme Smith's 234 helped South Africa post a mammoth first-innings total of 517.

The Proteas scored a 2-0 T20I-series win over Pakistan in Dubai in mid-November, but it was the preceding ODI series which provided the fireworks. South Africa were ruthless as they cruised to a 4-1 win in the five-match series in the UAE. In the final game, captain AB de Villiers scored a match-winning 115 not out, and also became the fastest South African to score 6000 ODI runs.

Less than a week before India arrived in South Africa, the Proteas -- on home soil -- fell to a shock 2-1 ODI-series defeat in a hastily arranged Pakistan tour to South Africa for the second time in a under a year.

South Africa had been expected to dominate the visitors, but their inability to play spin in the middle overs was exposed. Saeed Ajmal was the main protagonist for Pakistan, starving the batsmen of runs. On seamer-friendly wickets, Ajmal took five wickets in the series at an average of 21.6 and an economy rate of 3.85 runs per over.

The T20I series between the two sides ended 1-1.

On the domestic front, the Cape Cobras lifted the domestic first-class trophy after romping home to a resounding 10-wicket victory against the Knights in their final four-day match of the season.

Rain had the final say in the One Day Cup and the trophy was shared between the Titans and the Cobras after the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Even a reserve day for the final did not help, as two days of torrential rain scuppered any hopes of witnessing leather on willow.

In the T20 competition, the Lions ended a five-season trophy drought with a stunning 30-run win over the Titans in final. De Kock provided a glimpse of what was to come with a top score of 44 as the Lions posted 155 batting first. In reply, the Titans got off to a flier, bringing up 40 runs in the first four overs but were then bundled out for 125 in 18.1 overs.

In administrative matters, Cricket SA (CSA) named Haroon Lorgat as its new chief executive in July. His appointment plunged the organisation into turmoil as the BCCI, India's controlling cricket body, threatened to cancel their team's end-of-year tour to South Africa. CSA had to settle for a shortened tour, which included the three ODIs and only two Tests instead of the originally scheduled three Test series.

Losing out on a budgeted R200 million as a result of the curtailed Indian tour, the financial implications would probably only be felt over the next year.

When chief financial officer Naasei Appiah presented his report at CSA's annual general meeting in October, he said CSA earned the majority of its income from broadcast rights with tours against India and England raking in the highest revenue.

The total revenue, over the four-year cycle from 2011-2014, was budgeted at R2.3 billion, and a net profit of R286m was anticipated over the same period. These figures, however, were based on a full end-of-year tour by India.

Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
42% - 7945 votes
11% - 1990 votes
19% - 3624 votes
2% - 467 votes
1% - 172 votes
2% - 446 votes
5% - 926 votes
8% - 1581 votes
3% - 633 votes
Water sports
1% - 170 votes
American sports
1% - 224 votes
3% - 576 votes