Proteas pummelled in Pakistan, but here are 4 positives to take from tour

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Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj
Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj

It was a tough series to watch for South African cricket supporters, but it was not necessarily surprising. 

The Proteas' struggles against Asian sides away from home, and against spin bowling in particular, are well-documented and they have now lost a staggering nine Tests in a row on on the subcontinent.

In both Test matches, the South Africans had played themselves into strong positions. 

But big moments, whether in the field or in the form of a runout that sparked an all too familiar batting collapse, ultimately cost them when it mattered most. 

The result was the Proteas being whitewashed 2-0 in the series and slipping down to No 6 in the world rankings.

Questions will remain over what can be done to fix the batting problems while there is also uncertainty over who will captain the Test side moving forward. 

All in all, it was an incredibly disappointing tour for South Africa, who missed an opportunity to show that they are firmly on the right track towards becoming a powerhouse of the global game once more. 

There are still, however, a few positives that head coach Mark Boucher can take from what he saw. 

Here are FOUR.

Aiden Markram 

Markram's century in the second innings in Rawalpindi was superb. He showed immense concentration and application while, technically, he was flawless up until he edged Hasan Ali to slip to 108. Markram was devastated when he was dismissed because he knew the job was far from done, but the signs that came out of that innings and the tour as a whole for the 26-year-old were hugely encouraging. Markram finished as the leading run scorer in the series with 227 at an average of 57.65. 

Markram has also significantly enhanced his case for the Proteas Test captaincy with Quinton de Kock likely to stand down from that role now. 

More importantly, he looks to be South Africa's best bet to challenge for a place among the game's 'big four' batsmen of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson.

Spin depth

The perception may be that Pakistan's spinners - Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali - out-bowled South Africa's duo of Keshav Maharaj and George Linde, but the numbers tell a different story. 

Shah (8) and Ali (8) took 16 wickets between them while Maharaj (10) and Linde (5) took 15. 

While Maharaj doesn't emerge as a constant attacking threat when he has the ball in his hands, he showed superb control in both Tests an was rewarded.  

Linde, meanwhile, showed in the second innings in Rawalpindi that he, too, has a lot to offer when he picked up 5/64. 

South Africa will never likely field more than one spinner unless they are on the subcontinent, and Maharaj is still the first-choice in that regard, but the emergence of Linde has perhaps just increased the competition for that spot.

There is, of course, still Tabraiz Shamsi, who was due to play the first Test in Karachi but was ruled out with a back spasm. He offers something completely different, and further bulks up South Africa's offering in the spin department.

Anrich Nortje keeps showing the right stuff

Boucher said after the loss in Rawalpindi that he was largely satisfied with South Africa's bowling efforts on the tour, and Anrich Nortje certainly played his part in that. 

Now capped 10 times in Test cricket, the 27-year-old is improving all the time and has not-so-quietly gone about becoming one of South African cricket's most important players when casting an eye towards the future. 

While Kagiso Rabada struggled to make an impact on the tour, Nortje kept his pace up and bowled with aggression throughout the two Tests to finish with 9 wickets at 26.88. 

In all three formats, he is a major weapon for Boucher and he will have learnt a lot from bowling in such foreign conditions. 

Bavuma shows the way against spin

Temba Bavuma was the only other South African batsman who can leave Pakistan with his head held high, averaging 54.00 from the series. 

What was most impressive about his efforts, though, was how comfortable he was against the threats of the Pakistan spinners. 

Bavuma is assured defensively, playing the ball late or getting in a stride to nullify any turn, while his ability to sweep so effectively means he always has a way of rotating the strike. 

This has been an area where the Proteas have struggled so much in recent times, but Bavuma showed that with a compact gameplan and a clear-minded approach, South African batters CAN play spin. 

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