South Africa suffered their ninth consecutive Test loss in the subcontinent as they succumbing to Pakistan in Karachi by 95 runs. It completed a demoralizing 2-0 loss in the Test series against Pakistan.
There were some positives and some glaring negatives. The Popping Crase discusses the biggest talking points from the series.
Questions Remain About the Batting Unit
It is no secret that the batting unit is the problem and has been for quite some time. In each of the four innings against Pakistan, they collapsed in monumental fashion, losing 7-87 and 5-17 in the first Test and 5-37 and 7-33 in the second Test. This is simply not good enough to win you Test matches, and the quicker they understand this and correct it, the better.
We hear all the right words in press conferences and interviews – an acknowledgement of soft dismissals, knowing they have to play smart cricket, saying they’ve had the “hard chats” and know what they have to do. But it’s all talk at this point.
When are they going to practice what they preach? Experienced players, who have been around a very long time, and know the trials that come from Test cricket, should know better than to give their wickets away so easily. But yet, despite saying all the right words, that’s what they continue to do. I also can’t help but wonder if this was Faf du Plessis’ last Test. There some signs to be optimistic, Temba Bavuma averaged 52 in the series and showed a lot of resilience. He ran out of partners in a few innings.
Aiden Markram Lives Up to His Potential
Aiden Markram was one of the very few shining lights in the batting. He was the leading run-scorer in the series, with 227 runs at 56.75. Up against the likes of Babar Azam, at home, this was no mean feat. What was most striking about Markram’s batting was the improvements he has made to his game. It is visibly clear to see that he has worked hard. His ability to play spin, using his feet, showing aggression while being cautious – it was a whole new Markram.
It is testament to his new-found confidence that he was involved in the three important partnerships South Africa had, twice with Rassie van der Dussen and once with Temba Bavuma. Scoring his first century away from home will have been a huge boost to him personally, and getting it in the fourth innings would have made it that much sweeter.
QDK and the Captaincy
The decision to make Quinton de Kock captain was an odd one if I’m being honest, not one I agreed with, but one I would support. Sadly though, he did not live up to expectations and the captaincy put a significant burden on his performance as a player. de Kock is possibly in the worst form of his career, but I believe it is unfair to call for his head in the team.
He is the premier wicket-keeper batsman, he averages 37 in Tests but that number rises substantially when we look at his average in his favoured batting position, of no. 7, where he averages 50. For a long time, de Kock was the only batsman in form, people need to understand that every player goes through a slump. They need to give him time to regain his form because he will. Form is temporary, class is permanent, and de Kock oozes class.
No Concerns With the Bowler As Usual
The bowling didn’t do much wrong in Pakistan. Pakistan’s top order continuously failed against the Proteas bowling attack. It was particularly impressive Keshav Maharaj was able to keep Babar Azam quiet, dismissing him LBW in three out of the four innings. Maharaj was a champion, bowling a massive 117.1 overs, more than any other bowler, from either team and picking up 10 wickets.
He was ably supported by George Linde, who despite suffering a dislocated finger in the second Test, showed such great commitment and dedication to his team, to continue to bowl. It was a fitting moment when he took his maiden five-wicket haul.
Anrich Nortje bowled his heart out, and with extreme pace and passion, and took his first five-wicket haul away from home. With questions being raised by some about his performance and consistency, this series would have done Nortje the world of good. Although KG Rabada didn’t have the best of series (5 wickets at 39.4) he still picked up important wickets at important times, and this experience will be priceless.
When you think of a South African fielding unit, you think one of the best, if not the best. This was far from what we saw in Pakistan, with catch after catch going down. Getting the right fielders in the right positions is key because, while it’s a cheesy adage, ‘catches win matches’. Poor fielding is something that has been slowly creeping into their game for a while now and needs to be sorted out.