SA cricket in 2017: 5 talking points

Cape Town - The Proteas ended 2017 by thrashing Zimbabwe inside two days in their historic one-off Test on Wednesday, bringing the curtain down on a year that had its ups and downs. 

The main event was always going to be the ICC Champions Trophy in England as South Africa looked to win a rare piece of major silverware.

It was not to be, and South Africa's elimination from the group stages of the tournament was followed by more disappointment when they were beaten 3-1 by England in the Test series. 

In total, the Proteas played 12 Tests in 2017, winning seven, losing three and drawing one. They won 13 of their 19 ODIs and five of their nine T20Is. 

There were also a number of off-field issues that dominated headlines this year, from Kyle Abbott to Haroon Lorgat. 

Here, we look at FIVE talking points to emerge from South Africa's cricketing year. 

1. Abbott, Rossouw ditch Proteas for Kolpak

Things got messy during the New Year’s Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town when news broke that Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw had signed Kolpak deals. It was particularly awkward for Abbott, who was playing in that Test. After the match, the Proteas quick addressed media and confirmed the news, saying that he needed to look after his financial future. It caused intense debate in the South African cricket community. Then-coach Russell Domingo was fuming and he launched a scathing attack on Rossouw, who he said had notified the Proteas of his desire to move abroad via a poorly-worded email. The broader issue of Kolpak deals was firmly in the spotlight and retaining players remains a major challenge for Cricket South Africa (CSA).

2. T20 Global League fails to launch

This is certainly the biggest disappointment of the year from a CSA perspective. Having made a huge song and dance about South Africa's first ever internationally-flavoured T20 spectacle, the country's cricket bosses were left with egg on their face when the tournament was cancelled due to financial concerns. The franchises had been sold, the players and cities confirmed, but something went very wrong along the way. CSA parted ways with CEO Haroon Lorgat, who had pioneered the Global League, and they were also left with a long list of contracted players seeking compensation. In total, CSA is believed to have lost R170 million from the whole failed process. There is still no confirmation on whether or not the tournament will be launched in November 2018 as was planned, though CSA are reportedly desperate to get it off the ground. 

3. Proteas wobble in England

The Champions Trophy was considered the most important assignment of the year for the Proteas. They went into the tournament in fantastic form as has so often been the case when this team chases major silverware. But, once again, that counted for nothing. Under the captaincy of AB de Villiers, the Proteas lost to Pakistan and India to finish 3rd in Group B and be eliminated. That brought about the end of De Villiers' captaincy as he later gave the reins to Faf du Plessis. 

The Proteas then turned their attention to a four-match Test series against England, where they were outplayed on their way to a 3-1 defeat. That had followed ODI and T20I series defeats to England, bringing an end to a forgettable tour.

4. Domingo out, Gibson in

This year also saw a change in head coach as the likeable Russell Domingo parted ways with the national side. Domingo was not sacked, but out of contract. Lions boss Geoffrey Toyana applied for the post and was considered the overwhelming favourite to be appointed, but CSA had their eyes on England's bowling coach and Gibson got the gig. The former West Indies allrounder has cleaned out the backroom staff, appointing Justin Ontong (fielding coach), Dale Benkenstein (batting coach) and Malibongwe Maketa (assistant coach). Gibson has had an easy introduction to the job with comfortable victories over Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at home, but things are about to get a lot tougher with India and Australia on the horizon.  

5. AB de Villiers finally commits to Proteas

There is no doubt that the Proteas could have done with De Villiers' services while they were being torn apart on the Test stage in England, but he was still on his self-imposed break from the game. De Villiers was accused of 'picking and choosing' when he played for his country and it all got a bit ugly. Eventually, in August, De Villiers announced that he was back and available in all three formats for the Proteas. Having had a decent dose of domestic cricket this year, De Villiers is playing as well as ever. He desperately wants to win the 2019 World Cup, but having him back in the Test set-up for home series against India and Australia is a massive boost. 

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