5 Greatest South African Batsmen of All Time

Antoinette Muller@mspr1ntFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

5 Greatest South African Batsmen of All Time

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    South Africa has produced some of the finest batsmen in world cricket.

    The world's current No. 1-ranked Test team isn't shy of superb players gracing the world cricket stage with their presence, but that doesn't mean the ones who have called it a day should be forgotten. 

    There have been many, many great players to grace the Proteas jersey; some played with flair and pizazz and captured the hearts and imaginations of many. Other players simply dug in and excelled by being determined and hardworking.

    It's a bit cruel to whittle the all-time list down to five, and we've doubtless missed a few great ones, so add your best picks in the comments.

Herschelle Gibbs

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    Herschelle Gibbs wasn't exactly the poster boy for being a role model to aspiring athletes, but he was one heck of a player.

    Ruthless yet elegant, reckless yet consistent. Although his career came to an abrupt end after a rather controversial autobiography, Gibbs will forever be remembered for his 175 in the famous 438-9 match against Australia. 

    Gibbs was shameless in his bad-boy image and never shy to admit that he quite liked a drink, but that didn't stop him from scoring runs in abundance and was an asset for the South African team in both Tests and one-day internationals.

    He ended his career with 90 Tests matches with 6,167 runs to his name and 248 one-day internationals with 8,094 runs, at an average of 83.26.

    That tally of runs makes him South Africa's second-highest run-getter in ODIs. Gibbs was a prolific batsman who had no fear of any bowler.  

Hashim Amla

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    Hashim Amla made his debut nine years ago, and while he there were many critics around back then, they've all changed their tune.

    His awkward back lift, which comes from his days playing cricket in a cramped courtyard, was his biggest flaw, but he's proved that one's technique doesn't have to be perfect for a player to be great. 

    He is South Africa's sixth-highest run-scorer in Test cricket and was the first South African to score 300 when he ripped the heart out of the English attack during the Proteas' tour of England in 2012. 

    The wristy right-hander averaged 70.93 in 2012, scoring 1,064 runs, but his most prolific term was in 2010, when he notched up 1,249 runs in just 11 games. 

    Astute, elegant with a perfect cover drive, Amla's star shines so bright, you need shades—and he has a few years still left in him. 

Jacques Kallis

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    Arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the game, Jacques Kallis has amassed 13,128 runs in his 18-year career—and he's not done yet.

    While he is being "carefully managed" at the moment, Kallis will still play for a few years to come, but he has achieved so many great things.

    He had one monkey to get off his back: scoring a double hundred in Tests. Despite all his achievements, he simply couldn't get there—until 2010, that is.

    His first double hundred came against India in Centurion in December 2010. He finished unbeaten on 201 as South Africa clinched victory by an innings and 25 runs.

    His second came a little over a year later on his home ground in Cape Town. Kallis keeps on keeping on, even when the media write him off as being over the wall.

    Did we mention that he can also bowl a little?

Shaun Pollock

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    South Africa's very own ginger ninja was Shaun Pollock. A bowler first and a lower-order mega-hitter second, he was always at the top of the favourites list.

    Having played over 100 Tests for South Africa and over 300 one-day internationals, Pollock topped his illustrious bowling career by taking 421 wickets in Tests and 393 in ODIs with a couple of very handy runs in both formats.

    He is South Africa's all-time 10th-highest run-scorer in Test cricket (3,714 runs), and while he's not in the top 10 for ODIs, he was a vital part of the Proteas team who used to be renowned for starting slow and then launching an assault.

    His highest score in Tests came against Sri Lanka in 2001, where he scored one of only two centuries of the game. His knock of 111 off 106 eventually helped South Africa to win by an innings and seven runs. His effort earned him a man-of-the-match award and a man-of-the-series gong.

Gary Kirsten

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    The now-retired Gary Kirsten remains one of the most esteemed players to ever play for the Proteas. He's the fourth-highest run-scorer in one-day cricket and the third-highest in Test cricket. 

    He wasn't the most naturally gifted player, but he worked hard and established himself at the top of the South African batting order as an irreplaceable cog. 

    That dogged determination ensured he shared in many memorable partnerships and will always be remembered for his match-winning 76 in the final innings he ever played. He was also the first Proteas player ever to play 100 games for his country. 

    After retiring in 2004, Kirsten eventually took up a coaching job with the Indian national team, where he led the side to the top of the Test rankings and to a World Cup win. His stint with India ended in 2011, and from there he went on to coach his home country South Africa.

    South Africa were taken to the top of the Test rankings under his reign, but they continued their struggles in the shorter format of the game, including ICC events. In his last game in charge, South Africa crashed out of the ICC Champions Trophy to England.

    While many believed that it wasn't a choke, Kirsten said it was and referred to the side's struggles in knockout competition as a "dark mist" that hangs over the side.