South Africa started their era under Hashim Amla with a 153-run victory over Sri Lanka in Galle. It was the first time ever that they won after declaring twice away from home. Overall, it was a solid team performance from the Proteas, but as with every game, there were a few individuals who stood out and others who fell flat. We’ve picked out a few. Add your thoughts in the comments.
Hashim Amla showed that he’s not going to blow conservative convention out of the window. His declaration in the second innings was bold and pragmatic by South Africa’s usual standards.
South Africa had never won when declaring twice away from home, just as a team had never won chasing 370 at Galle. The only oddity of Amla’s first outing as captain was persisting with the spinners in the first innings, despite the fact that they were getting tonked and the new ball was due.
Quinton de Kock wasn’t exactly under scrutiny heading into this Test, but if there was a test, he’s passed it. A steady half-century in the first innings and a tidy effort behind the stumps has probably cemented him his place for the next match, whether AB de Villiers’ tight hamstring gets better or not.
It’s important for South Africa to persist with him in the keeper’s role if he is part of their future plans, though. AB de Villiers was hardly struggling with the dual role, but looking ahead, it’s increasingly starting to look like De Kock's presence is the pragmatic approach to future planning.
In times of trouble, you can always rely on JP Duminy. A century at No. 8 and a few overs of spin in this Test have once again grown his reputation as an all-rounder.
As a senior member of the team, his responsibility will only increase, but he’s shown time and time again that he can do it, especially when he’s under pressure.
You can rattle off endless statistics about why Dale Steyn is the best in the world or you can just watch him and see for yourself. He now has more wickets than any other non-Asian fast bowler in the sub-continent, overtaking Courtney Walsh’s tally of 77, Steyn has 80.
Early in his career he took a five-for in Sri Lanka, too, and he described that outing as “absolutely useless.” Nine wickets on a road of a track is far from useless, though.
Quotes obtained first hand.
This slide comes with a winner, too. That winner is Dean Elgar. His century at the top of the order did a fine impersonation of Graeme Smith and proved that there is such a thing as having a natural batting position. He’ll need to notch up a few more of those before the sceptics will rest easy, but for the time being, there is much for Elgar to be pleased about.
The loser in this story, however, is the moustache of South Africa’s video analyst, Prasanna Agoram. Elgar had told Agoram before the Test that if he makes a hundred, the ‘tache will have to go. When he brought up his ton, Elgar motioned across his mouth toward the dressing room to let Agoram now that it’s time to get rid of his dubious facial hair.
When a spinner can’t take wickets on a turning track then it might be time to give up on that spinner. In conditions which were tailor-made for him, Tahir managed just one scalp. Once again, his lack of patience let him down.
Although there were plenty of good balls, Tahir’s biggest problem is keeping it up. Five good balls are often followed by a long hop or full toss which is dispatched for a pressure-releasing boundary. Tahir also sometimes bowls so full that the ball doesn’t actually get time to turn. Despite his evolution in the limited-overs formats, Tahir just hasn’t managed the same in the longest format. He’s just not up to scratch.
Vernon Philander was caught by TV cameras scratching the ball, as per Wisden India. He was subsequently fined 75 percent of his match fee after not contesting the charged laid against him. It’s the second time he has been caught fiddling with the ball, the first time being against Pakistan last year.
He escaped punishment back then, but this kind of thing happening in such a short space of time will not do his reputation any good. His coach insisted that South Africa just wants to put it all behind them and move on, but cricket fans aren’t exactly known for having short-term memories when it comes to players doing wrong.