Cape Town – The Proteas stand dangerously on the cusp of becoming the worst-performing South African touring team in England during the post-isolation years.
The equation is stark and simple: either lose or draw in the pivotal final Test at Old Trafford from Friday (12:00 start, SA time) and they will become the least productive outfit from our shores in six visits to England since bilateral contact there was resumed after a lengthy, apartheid-caused gap with a 1994 tour.
England lead the current Test series 2-1, so have already ensured retention of the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy they snatched from the Proteas’ grasp in SA two summers back.
But Faf du Plessis and company still have plenty of incentive – if they can muster the end-of-tour desire and suitable standards to play – to earn a 2-2 outcome, which would represent a praiseworthy enough achievement after a “difficult” three months in the so-called Green and Pleasant Land.
The Test series still holds the most gravitas, of course, and sharing the honours there would go quite some way to atoning for the disappointment of successive 2-1 reverses in the one-day international and Twenty20 series.
But if the Proteas crash, or are held, at Old Trafford, it would mean the ignominy of becoming the first ever SA party to surrender all three formats in England on the same tour.
Also clouding the visit thus far, of course, is the way they bowed out of the multinational ICC Champions Trophy, held at English and Welsh venues during June, before the knockout phase.
As things stand, then, South Africa have won only four and lost eight of 12 full international matches across the three formats in the UK over the past few months – an unusually low victory percentage of 33.3.
If they fail to triumph in Manchester over the next five days, they will definitely return the least fruitful of all SA teams visiting England since 1994.
South Africa have won two (2012 and 2008) and drawn two (2003 and 1994) of the five prior modern-era Test series in England, the only blemish being 1998 when the hosts won 2-1.
But even in that year, under Hansie Cronje’s charge, South Africa won the bilateral ODI combat 2-1; there was also a separate triangular with Sri Lanka latched on and the team from the Subcontinent won that event.
Here is a reminder of the outcomes of all the major international activity on previous SA tours of England since isolation ended:
2012: SA won Tests 2-0, ODIs shared 2-2, T20s shared 1-1
2008: SA won Tests 2-1, England won ODIs 4-0, lone T20 abandoned without starting
2003: Tests shared 2-2, England won triangular ODI tournament (also featuring Zimbabwe)
1998: England won Tests 2-1, SA won ODIs 2-1, Sri Lanka won triangular ODI tournament
1994: Tests shared 1-1, England won ODIs 2-0
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