South Africa’s superb display to crush Australia by 231 runs in Port Elizabeth to square the Test series with one match to play is worthy of all imaginable superlatives. After suffering a hiding in the opening Test at Centurion there were question marks against the Proteas. Mitchell Johnson was a concern. The form of certain players was brought into the spotlight. And of course there was the issue of mental scarring with one sports psychologist suggesting that the hosts might not recover at all and a 3-0 whitewash was a real possibility.
Fanie De Villiers famously told Australian television on the evening of Day Four of that incredible five-run victory in Sydney in 1994 that South Africans never give up. It was De Villiers rather than the shrinks who would prevail. We have seen time and again that this South African cricket side under Graeme Smith is made of tough stuff and that was once again proven to be true in Port Elizabeth. Apart from the first hour, the Proteas dominated the Test match. Note the familiarity to the Centurion Test where it was South Africa who won the first session and after that it was all Australia. Now it is time for a closely-fought battle between two of the world’s best teams at Newlands, I say.
Dean Elgar put in a strong performance on his return to the national team and Alviro Petersen now has something to think about and competition for places can only ever be a good thing. Speaking of performances, JP Duminy is owed an apology and a salute from this blog. Last week he was brought under the spotlight and his efforts in the second Test were nothing short of commendable. Thank goodness he played.
And as for Mitchell Johnson, the Aussie quick was not the factor he was in the first Test. There were several reasons for that like the pace of the pitch as well as the overall conditions plus the home batsmen clearly had a better plan this time around for the left-arm paceman. However it should be pointed out that the conditions and pitch are the same for both teams and the South African bowlers made it look like a bowler’s paradise whereas the Australians made it look like the flattest pitch PE ever produced.
Now it is Newlands time and the South African selectors are faced with a few tricky questions? Has Elgar done enough to keep Petersen out? You can be guaranteed if Petersen returns he will be keen as mustard to show his worth. Does De Kock play again? And will Wayne Parnell be fit and if not will Ryan McLaren return or will they go for a spin option in Robin Peterson? The answer to all these could be yes as easily as it could be no but one thing is for sure, it is a problem Andrew Hudson and his team would rather have than not.