Cape Town - South African captain Hashim Amla hit the winning runs on the fifth day of the third and final Test against the West Indies at Newlands on Tuesday, collected the International Cricket Council mace and a $500 000 cheque for the world champion Test team, then looked ahead to what he expects to be a challenging year.
Amla finished on 38 not out as South Africa won by eight wickets to clinch a 2-0 series triumph, which he admitted had been expected against the world’s eighth-ranked side.
He was named man of the series after scoring 342 runs at an average of 114.00.
He took over as captain from the long-serving Graeme Smith, soon after the retirement of Jacques Kallis, and said South Africa were still a team in transition.
Opening batsman Alviro Petersen announced his retirement after the Test, opening up another vacancy in the side.
With tours to Bangladesh and India later this year, followed by a four-Test home series against England, Amla said tougher challenges lay ahead.
“The team is developing. It has probably been a good move for some of the younger players to make their debuts and get a feel of Test cricket in a year when we will be playing against really good opposition.”
Amla said that he was well aware that the match-winning pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel could not carry on playing indefinitely.
“I think about it all the time. It is not often you are blessed with three bowlers of their calibre. Like with the batters, where we have lost two colossal players (Smith and Kallis) we have to start looking at the next guys to take over. They can’t go on forever.”
Amla has led South Africa to four wins in six Tests, including an away series win against Sri Lanka.
“After six matches I’m learning a lot more about captaincy. To find a winning combination is still our main goal. There is still a long way to go.”
West Indian captain Denesh Ramdin said he was disappointed at the way his team had collapsed in their second innings on the fourth afternoon, when they lost their last seven wickets for 33 runs.
“South Africa is a really tough place to play,” said Ramdin.
“They are a very professional team. Our batsmen didn’t go on to make good scores, which put us under pressure.”
Like coach Stuart Williams the day before, Ramdin said the dismissal of Marlon Samuels, caught on the boundary trying to hit off-spinner Simon Harmer out of the ground, had been a turning point.
“For one of our senior batters to play a shot like that when he was in was an uncalled-for shot.
"He and (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul had a very good partnership. For new guys to come to the crease when Dale Steyn was fired up was very difficult.”
Ramdin said he felt the future for a largely young and inexperienced West Indies team was good.
He singled out batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite, Leon Johnson and Jermaine Blackwood and fast bowler Shannon Gabriel as players who had benefitted from playing against South Africa.
“There are things we need to do that they did in terms of building pressure for a long period of time. That can only come from playing more games and players taking ownership of their games.”
Dean Elgar made 60 not out as South Africa achieved a winning target of 124 before lunch.
It was tough going for South Africa at the start of the day after they resumed on nine for one.
Fast bowler Jerome Taylor and left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn did not concede a run until Elgar pulled Taylor for four after 26 minutes and off the 45th ball of the day.
The tall Benn was particularly difficult to score off, getting turn and bounce from a wearing pitch, with Faf du Plessis completely tied down.
Du Plessis struggled to 14 off 69 balls before a ball from Benn kicked viciously and took the shoulder of his bat for Blackwood to take a catch running back from gully.
Benn took two for 24 in an unbroken spell of 17 overs.