2019- A year to forget for the Proteas
The biggest challenge for South Africa in 2019 was to cope with the retirement of their star player AB de Villiers who called it a day in 2018. The 2019 World Cup and the beginning of the World Test Championship campaign in India were the upcoming challenges for the South African team in 2019.
Before the above mentioned series, Pakistan were touring South Africa for a three-match Test series towards the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. South Africa won the Boxing day Test at Centurion convincingly by beating Pakistan by 6 wickets.
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The Proteas started 2019 on a positive note by beating Pakistan in a Test at Cape Town. The win was followed by another emphatic win over Pakistan at the Wanderers Stadium at Johannesburg. The Proteas thus comprehensively whitewashed Pakistan in the Test series. The ODI series against Pakistan too was dominated by South Africa and they beat the visitors by a margin of 3-2.
Since then the pendulum has swung. Their next opponents were Sri Lanka, who had a torrid 2018 in Test cricket and the two-match Test series was supposed to be cakewalk for the home team.
The Proteas were all over the visiting Sri Lankan team in the first Test at Durban and Sri Lanka were 226 for 9 chasing 304. However, the last wicket pair of Kusal Perara and Vishwa Fernando added 78 for the last wicket and led Sri Lanka to a miraculous win. The likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Duanne Olivier and Keshav Maharaj could not dismiss the last Sri Lankan pair and Sri Lankan recorded their first Test win on South African soil.
If this was not enough, the Sri Lankans, inspired by the win at Durban, thrashed South Africa by a margin of 8 wickets in the second Test at Port Elizabeth and the home team were left in a state of shock. The Sri Lankans had beaten South Africa by a margin of 2-0 and became the first Asian team to win a Test series in South Africa against a full-strength South African team. The South Africans thereafter won the ODI series against Sri Lanka by a margin of 5-0 but the scars of the Test defeat were evident and the team looked to get back into winning ways through the 2019 World Cup.
2019 World Cup
The format of the 2019 World Cup was round robin with each team playing the remaining 9 teams once with the top four teams making it to the semi-finals. South Africa had a horrendous start to their World Cup campaign. They lost their first three games of the tournament to England, Bangladesh and India and looked totally out of sorts in the said tournament. They got their first point in the tournament when their game against West India was washed out.
Their first win in the tournament was against Afghanistan and they needed to win their remaining four matches if they had any chance of making it to the semi-finals. However, losses against New Zealand and Pakistan in their next two games shattered their dreams. They ended their campaign on a positive note by beating Sri Lanka and Australia.
They finished seventh on the points table in the World Cup and was their worst World Cup till date. After the unsuccessful World Cup, Hashim Amla and J. P. Duminy announced their retirement from international cricket and Imran Tahir called it quits from ODI cricket.
The next challenge for the Proteas team was the World Test Championship with a three-match series against the number-one Test side India in their own den.
World Test Championship- South Africa's tour of India
South Africa have been one of the most successful teams to tour India in the last decade or so. South Africa arrived in India for their first series in the World Test Championship as the number-two ranked team and were expected to give India a tough battle.
The pitches in Vizag, Pune and Ranchi were good Test surfaces and not rank turners which the South African team had encountered in their last tour of India in 2015. The visitors were no match for the Indians and they were thrashed by a margin of 203 runs, an innings and 137 runs and an innings and 202 runs in the three Tests.
The South Africans had no answers to the Indian pacers and the spinners and their bowlers had no idea as to how to keep the Indian batsmen quiet. The likes of Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Bavuma and Faf du Plessis struggled to score runs and the entire bowling attack was listless. Thus South Africa were white washed for the first time in India in a 3 match Test series.
Way ahead in 2020
The next series that South Africa play is a four-match Test series against England at home. The said series will be a part of the World Test Championship and South Africa will look to get points on the table by getting into the winning mode.
The senior players in the team like Dean Elgar, Faf du Plesses, Quinton de Kock will have to lead from the front and set an example for the young South African batsmen. The bowling unit will have to hunt as a pair and as evidenced in the past. The likes of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Keshav Maharaj have bowled South Africa to many victories in Test cricket.
The ODI and T20 team is also in the re-building phase with many players announcing their retirements. Markram has done well in limited overs' cricket in the past and will be one of the vital players in the said formats.
All in all, world cricket needs South Africa to perform on the big stage. Since their re-admission to cricket in 1992, the South Africa have always been one of the top cricketing nations in all formats be it at home or away. It will be a challenge for Faf du Plessis to inspire a young South African team. However, the same set of players have been match-winners in the past and need to get back to winning ways.
South African fans will look to forget 2019 as a bad memory and will look to embrace 2020 as the year when their team bounces back as a leading cricketing nation.Published 24 Nov 2019, 21:04 IST