South Africa cruised to a ten-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second Test match in Johannesburg. The victory helped the home side win the two-match series 2-0, their first series triumph in the ICC World Test Championship. It was also South Africa’s first Test series win in two years.
This victory was also the first under new coach Mark Boucher.
Despite posting two commanding wins over a beleaguered Sri Lankan team, the Proteas have a lot to ponder with away series against Pakistan and Australia coming up.
South Africa’s batting remains their biggest Achilles' heel
While in the fast bowling department South Africa resumed their usual service, their batting has come under some scrutiny. While Dean Elgar continued his impressive form at the top, the middle-order failed to impress.
Rassie van der Dussen’s promotion to number 3 only yielded one half-century in three outings. Faf du Plessis managed to end his run-scoring drought by slamming a career-best 199 in the first Test. However, much cannot be said after that.
The worries start with the form of the once-reliable middle-order batsman, Temba Bavuma. It has now been five years since he scored his only Test century. His inability to convert good starts into substantial innings have often cost his team dearly.
In his last Test series against India, he scored-18,0,8,38,32 and 0 - something that understandably raised eyebrows over his selection. Despite possessing a solid defense and excellent fluency in attack, these cold numbers go hard against him.
Since his debut in 2014, Bavuma has represented his country in 42 Test matches; however, he has only managed 14 fifty-plus scores and a solitary century, which came against England.
As far as Quinton de Kock is concerned, he has been his country’s top run-scorer since 2017. However, in his debut series as captain, he managed only 28 runs in three innings.
While his wicket-keeping was tidy as usual, South Africa will have to weigh the consequences of putting extra responsibility on him. Although he has got off to a great start to his captaincy career, whether he is a long-term option remains a persistent debate.
Interestingly, it is this very debate on captaincy that is of utmost importance to the national team. Mark Boucher and co. have to finalize their long-term choice.
They also have to see the duration for which they can avail of the services of Faf Du Plessis. The 36-year-old's presence in the team can help the current captain to grow. Once Du Plesis departs, South Africa will not only be missing a fantastic batsman but an astute tactician as well.
South Africa’s batting remains their biggest Achilles' heel. While the bowling has looked sharp, even in the absence of spearhead Kagiso Rabada, their batting needs a quick turnaround.
As of now, the series against Sri Lanka has papered over a lot of cracks, but the upcoming series against Pakistan would be in subcontinent conditions.
The battle in the ICC World Test Championship is over for South Africa; it is now a battle within themselves to realize their full potential.