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South Africa: Player ratings vs India

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India_batting_batsmen_flat_track_bullies_cricket_Test_home_awayFor the first time in Test history, every available wicket was taken in a series as the South African and Indian bowlers ran amok across the three matches in Cape Town, Centurion and Johannesburg.

So much of the talk ahead of the Freedom Series focussed on the hostile wickets the home groundsman would serve up as the Proteas sought revenge for their humiliating 0-3 defeat on the subcontinent in 2015.

Newlands produced a result inside three days. The Wanderers strip was deemed unsafe by pundits and players alike, with Dean Elgar, who copped a nasty blow to the head, declaring that the game should have been called off.

Even at SuperSport Park, on a strip that was compared to an Indian pitch by Morne Morkel and which caused Faf du Plessis to publicly criticise the ground’s curator, all 20 wickets fell.

Naturally, most of South Africa’s bowlers leave the series with their reputations enhanced and will be confident ahead of the four match tussle with the Australians next month. As for the batsmen, some serious work will need to be done ahead of the arrival of Starc, Cummins, Hazelwood and Lyon.

Vernon Philander–9.5/10

Fully deserving his man of the series accolade, “Big Vern” was at his miserly best with ball in hand. Nine wickets in Cape Town, including a career best 6-42 in the second innings helped secure a tight victory on a ground where he is almost unplayable when there is seam movement on offer.

Fifteen scalps at just 15.86 underlined his impact on the tour as much as his control, which allowed his fellow quicks to steam in at the other end with great effect.

An average of 15.66 with the bat would ordinarily represent a poor return for Philander but his 23 in Cape Town and 35 in Johannesburg helped dig his side out of deep holes in tough conditions.

Kagiso Rabada - 9/10

Fifteen wickets at 20.26 doesn’t quite tell the full story of Rabada’s series. He was often unplayable as he proved time and again why he now holds the record of being the youngest bowler to be ranked the best in the world.

Still only 22 years old, Rabada makes bowling look incredibly easy. Helping himself to 11 wickets on the helpful wickets of Cape Town and Johannesburg is one thing, but the accuracy with which he bowled in Centurion played a telling role in Lungi Ngidi’s success.

Rabada also proved himself handy with the bat and chipped in valuable runs when his captain called on him to fulfil the nightwatchman role.

Lungi Ngidi – 9/10

It was a dream start to Test cricket for the imposing 21-year-old who was drafted in to fill the big shoes of Dale Steyn. By taking 6-39 on an unhelpful SuperSport Park track in India’s second innings, Lungi Ngidi became the 149th player to grab a five wicket haul on Test debut.

Nine wickets at 17.22 will forever be etched in the history books, but what should be remembered is the trouble Ngidi gave Virat Kohli every time he bowled to the Indian skipper. Delivered from a steep height by broad shoulders, the ball would cannon into the bat with an audible thud (that is, whenever Kohli managed to make contact with it). A long and successful career lies ahead.

Morne Morkel – 8/10

With Dale Steyn suffering yet another unfortunate injury, Morne Morkel became the commanding officer of South Africa’s pace battery. He bowled well in patches and troubled India’s openers with the new ball, but struggled with his lines and lengths at key stages in the series.

At Centurion he was often too full on a flat deck and in the final session of day 2 in Johannesburg, he alleviated any pressure the batsman may have felt on that surface by straying on the pads or being too wide of off stump. A satisfactory, if unspectacular, series for the tall man.

Dean Elgar – 7.5/10

Elgar is often called ‘nuggety’, a ‘battler’ and a ‘fighter’ who compensates for a lack of talent with sheer bloody mindedness, but that does not do the left-handed opener justice. It takes tremendous skill to front up to a seaming and swinging new ball, and few in world cricket are as competent as Elgar.

His unbeaten 86 across 356 minutes in a losing cause at the Wanderers was an epic that alone was worth the price of admission. Though he failed to convert on two good starts in Centurion and was out inside the first over of the series, Elgar can be pleased with his efforts across the three encounters with 207 runs at 41.4.

AB de Villiers – 6.5

South Africa’s top run scorer with 211 at 35.16, de Villiers showed glimpses of his genius without setting the series on fire. With his side in trouble at 12-3 in Cape Town, de Villiers produced a virtuoso display of counterattacking batting which swung the pendulum back in South Africa’s favour.

His efforts were always going to be compared to Virat Kohli’s, and in this series the South African was outclassed. His two failures in Johannesburg cost his side dearly and significantly contributed to the 63 run defeat.

Hashim Amla – 6/10

At times it looked as if the old Hashim Amla was back, with swashbuckling drives through the off side complementing devastating flicks to the midwicket boundary. After two failures in Cape Town, Amla followed up with 82 in Centurion and two battling half centuries in Johannesburg that almost rescued the game for his side.

Unfortunately, he could not kick on and convert, leaving the series with a below par return of 203 runs at 33.83.

Faf du Plessis – 6/10

Du Plessis’ 114 run fourth wicket stand with de Villiers on the first day in Cape Town salvaged the Test while it was still in its infancy. Two starts in Centurion boosted de Plessis’s numbers but it was hardly a memorable series with the bat as he signed off with 183 runs at 30.5.

Du Plessis deserves credit for the way he captained the side in the first two matches, and his decision to play at least four seamers in every game has to be applauded. Allowing his troops to slack off in that crucial final session on day 2 at the Wanderers must be condemned and he will no doubt reflect on a missed opportunity to be more ruthless.

Aiden Markram – 5.5/10

There is no doubt that Aiden Markram will retire with a glut of Test runs to his name after a long and fruitful career. When all is said and done he may even go down as a Test captain with collection of memorable series under his belt. Sadly, this will not be one of them.

Apart from a quality knock of 94 at SuperSport Park, Markram could only manage a further 76 runs across the other 5 innings at an average of 23.33. Out twice in Johannesburg jabbing outside his off stump, he is surely too good for this to turn into a perennial weakness.

Andile Phehlukwayo – 4/10

It felt like an odd selection to play the bowling all-rounder instead of an out and out batsman at the Wanderers, especially since South Africa’s four pronged pace attack had proved so successful in the previous two games, but Andile Phehlukwayo silenced the critics when he found Cheteshwar Pujara’s edge after the batsman had faced 179 balls.

Hardik Pandya’s wicket was added to Phehlukwayo’s first innings tally but that is about as good as it got for the young man. Three expensive overs in India’s second innings along with a total of 9 runs with the bat was all he could muster for the remainder of the game.

Keshav Maharaj – 3.5/10

Having never played in Asia, this was to be the first real test of Keshav Maharaj’s credentials. Already touted as possibly South Africa’s best spinner since readmission, bowling against batsmen who thrive on mediocre spinners offered up an enticing challenge. Unfortunately for Maharaj and his captain, it is a challenge he failed.

Reduced to a bit part player in Cape Town, Maharaj was either too full or too short on what was supposed to be a helpful wicket in Centurion. Made to look like a part timer in comparison with Ravichandran Ashwin, Maharaj picked up just 1 wicket across 36 disappointing overs in the series and was dropped for the final match at the Bull Ring.

Quinton de Kock – 2/10

This was unquestionably de Kock’s worst tour of his career to date. 71 runs at 11.83 and a high score of 43 (admittedly in trying circumstances in Cape Town) do not reflect the abilities this young man possesses.

His bizarre innings in Centurion, where he edged three of his first four balls for 4 before finally nicking off for 12, encapsulated his disappointing form with the bat. He was excellent with the gloves but after two ducks and two single digit scores in six innings his average has now dropped below 40. He will know that is not good enough if he is going to bat at 6 for the Proteas.

Dale Steyn – N/A

Only the most partisan Indian fan would have felt anything but sheer disappointment when the Phalaborwa Express broke down yet again in Cape Town after damaging his heel in a footmark.

While he was on the pitch he rolled back the clock by hooping the ball through the air at speed and picked up two wickets that inched him to within three of Shaun Pollock’s record of 421 Test scalps. Reports suggest Steyn will be fit for the Australian series. Whether or not he is selected remains to be seen.

 

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Daniel is a freelance sports journalist from Johannesburg who would always rather be watching Test ...

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