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31 Dec 2009 14:46
South African captain Graeme Smith said after his team’s crushing innings defeat in the second Test against England in Durban on Wednesday that the side had failed to “go to the next level” after a glorious 2008.
His concerns are reflected in the year-end statistics.
In the 2008 calendar year, South Africa won a Test series in England and Australia, as well as sharing a series in India, winning at home against the West Indies and beating Bangladesh away and at home.
They won 11 out of 15 Tests, with just two defeats and two draws.
In 2009, starting with the dead rubber third Test of the series in Australia, they have been much less active, playing only six Tests, with just one win, four defeats and one draw.
Most of the South African players who starred in 2008 have gone backwards, although AB de Villiers has been a shining exception, scoring 572 runs in the calendar year at an average of 57,20.
The fast bowling attack, which was a key factor in 2008, together with a settled top six batting order and safe catching behind the wicket, has been particularly poor.
Dale Steyn took 22 wickets in five matches at an average of 32,86 but Morne Morkel’s 15 wickets came at a costly 40,66 each, while Makhaya Ntini could manage only 13 wickets in six Tests at a high average of 57 apiece.
The fast bowlers were outshone by left-arm spinner Paul Harris, who took 26 wickets at 33,15.
South Africa named a squad of 14 for the second and third Tests against England and selection convener Mike Procter said the team for the third Test starting in Cape Town on Sunday would come from those players.
Ntini looks like the most likely player to be axed.
He is the only black South African in the squad, which could be a factor in race-conscious South Africa but Cricket SA chief executive Gerald Majola has told the team management they must pick their final 11 on cricket considerations only.
If Ntini was left out, he would be replaced by Friedel de Wet, the fast bowler who engineered an England collapse on the final afternoon of the drawn first Test in Centurion.
Batsman Alviro Petersen and all-rounder Ryan McLaren, the only uncapped players in the squad, are less likely to play in Cape Town. - AFP
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