History Made: Great for South Africa, Bad for Australia

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History Made: Great for South Africa, Bad for Australia

A nine wicket victory has confirmed what we have all but known for months—the Baggy Green is no longer the premier force in world cricket.

 

We could go further to say that for South Africa not to win in Sydney would be unfair. 

 

They on form should secure not only a 3-0 whitewash; but become the number-one ranked nation in Test cricket. 


Only India could convincingly challenge this point, but 2008 has belonged unquestionably to South Africa and their brilliant captain Graeme Smith.

 

Smith will finish 2008 with 1656 test runs at an average of 72, with six centuries and six 50s.  It is the third most runs ever scored in a calendar year (behind only to Mohammed Yousuf in 2006 and Sir Vivian Richardsin 1976) and more than 200 runs better than the next best, India’s Virender Sehwag. 

 

If the Protea’s capture the number one ranking, it would be the first time another country other than Australia has held this honour since the ICC introduced the Test ranking system in May 2001.

 

They would deserve it as it is South Africa’s first series win over Australia since 1970, and their maiden series win on Australian soil.

 

Not since Curtley Ambrose took 33 wickets and Brian Lara scored 466 runs in the 1992-93 series has Australia been defeated in a test series at home.  One could surmise that was the beginning of Australia’s climb to pre-eminence.  After all, players such as Shane Warne, the Waugh twins, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn were beginning their test careers – being supported by the old guard of Allan Border and David Boon.

 

But there are no young tyro’s present in this Australian line up, and Ricky Ponting’s brilliant batting aside, there is no old guard supporting the expectation on this dying team. 

 

It was indicative of Australia’s troubles when commentator Mark Nicholas remarked that in the second innings Ponting was batting as a captain trying to save an empire.  It was fitting that as Australia’s might crumbles, that Ponting was out for 99—which effectively ended any faint hope that the home team may have had.

 

Of course, we can take nothing away from South Africa.  They have not tasted a series loss since losing to Sri Lanka 2-0 away in 2006.  Since then have beaten India, Pakistan twice, New Zealand, West Indies, Bangladesh twice and England—as well as drawing with India in the subcontinent.

 

Contrast this to Australia, who had won eight straight test series from November 2005 and June 2008—but the fall from the summit has been hard.  It is their first back to back Test defeats since March 2001, and has now lost two of their last three test series.  A loss in Sydney would make Ponting’s men the first Australian team in 27 years to suffer a series clean sweep.

 

Looking at 2008’s figures, it is clear that Australia has lost their hegemony—and equally stark that South Africa and India now rule the cricket world. 

 

Four South Africans and four Indians are in the top ten run scorers of the year.  Dale Steyn is the most prolific bowler of 2008 with 74 wickets at a brilliant average of 20.01.  Australia’s spin tormenter Harbhajan Singh is second with 63 scalps.

 

It is a strange feeling, witnessing one of the great powers of the sporting world struggle, and it will not get any easier for Australia, with a series in South Africa to come, followed by their defence of the Ashes. 

 

But either way, we are witnessing the emergence of new powers in South Africa and India.  Ironically, in a year where Twenty20 cricket challenged the status quo and Test cricket—after over a decade of watching Australia beat opposition in the latter form of the game—that we have witnessed the rebirth of the contest in the oldest form of the game.

 

 

 

2008 Team Statistics

 

Team

Matches

Won

Lost

Draw

South Africa

15

11

2

2

India

15

6

4

5

Australia

14

5

5

4

England

12

5

4

3

New Zealand

14

4

6

4

Sri Lanka

6

3

2

0

West Indies

9

1

5

3

Bangladesh

9

0

7

1

 

 

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