5 Reasons Why SA's Victory over Australia at Port Elizabeth Could Be Seminal
Even if Australia go on to win the third and final Test match starting in Cape Town on Saturday and go on to win the series, there's still an argument to be made that South Africa's 231-run victory in Port Elizabeth was a seminal and historic one, one that won't be forgotten and one that may be looked back on as pivotal in South Africa's era of dominance.
Click Begin Slideshow to find out why this victory could be so significant.
Coming Back from Hell
South Africa were not just beaten in the first Test in Centurion. They were battered, hit and cut. They were mentally scarred. And physically exposed.
Mitchell Johnson's pace exposed South Africa's batting like never before, while their fielding resembled a team broken in mind and body.
The story of Centurion makes this comeback all the more remarkable.
Great teams come back from matches such as Centurion, and South Africa not only came back, but they did so with a vengeance. They played better, harder and faster just when it was required. They put the demons of the first Test behind them and allowed their cricket to do the talking.
This was a mental victory as much as it was a physical one.
The Battle for No. 1
Not only did South Africa coming back from Centurion demonstrate the skill and resolve of Graeme Smith's men, but more broadly speaking, it exemplified the desire this team have to stay at the top of the Test rankings.
South Africa have been cricket's undisputed No. 1-ranked team for 18 months or so now. However, their true quality has been nebulous up until now, with the general standard of international cricket not particularly high, and a bizarre sense that South Africa hadn't truly been challenged at the top of the rankings.
That has all changed now. Not only have South Africa come back from a massive defeat, but they've done so against a side threatening their throne and have done so comprehensively.
South Africa could lose in Newlands, but they have shown here that they are, for now at least, the deserved No. 1-ranked side.
Gaps Are Beginning to Be Filled
Jacques Kallis' departure from the Test scene left South Africa with huge cricket boots to fill.
Yes, it was just one man, but as a key batsman and valuable bowler, the whole balance of the team needed to be reconsidered.
The first Test lineup looked wrong—Ryan McLaren is an admirable player but his Test credentials are uncertain, either as batsman or bowler.
In Port Elizabeth Dean Elgar opened the batting in Alviro Petersen's place and provided some balance with his off-spin.
JP Duminy dropped to No. 7 to deepen the batting, he too offering something with the ball, while the inclusion of Wayne Parnell proved the value of playing an out-and-out bowler, the left-armer making an instant impression.
Duminy will almost certainly not be a long-term solution to South Africa's spin woes, however, he could provide a useful stop-gap until a better option comes along, allowing South Africa to pack their attack with fast bowlers.
Quinton de Kock's Test debut did not go brilliantly, however, he is a young talent and should definitely be given an extended run in the side.
But gaps are beginning to be filled. Flesh is being put on the skeleton.
The Session from Heaven/Hell
Perpetuating this outstanding victory was the manner of the Test's denouement, in which South Africa took an incredible, awe-inducing nine wickets in a session.
Australia were 141-1 in pursuit of a record 448 at tea, but two-and-a-half hours later, they had been bowled out for 216, losing nine wickets for 75 runs in a single session.
It was an oblivion session. An obliteration session. A session from hell for Australia. A session from heaven for South Africa. Who were, incidentally, a bowler short following Wayne Parnell's injury.
Dale Steyn was at his brutal best, taking four wickets. But it was a team effort, with a lacklustre pre-tea bowling attack transformed into a baby-eating, batsman-crunching attack after it.
It was a session that exposed Australia's batting as fragile and South Africa's bowling as supreme. It will leave scars.
Momentum is a spurious notion in cricket. But it was hard to deny, with a huge crowd at Port Elizabeth riding the emotional tidal wave of South Africa's staggering final session, that the Proteas had wrestled back a significant psychological advantage and created a real sense of purpose and meaning to their cricket.
It's hard to describe it—but it felt momentous.