South Africa started the decade as the second-ranked Test side; a team that had not lost an away Test series for more than 3 years. The golden generation of South African cricket took the team to greater heights as Graeme Smith's team continued their unbeaten streak in overseas conditions for nearly half of this decade. During this period, they won Test series in England, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies.
The dream run was however put to an end by India in 2015, when the Proteas succumbed to the web spun by Indian spinners on turning tracks. The 3-0 defeat ended the eight-year long overseas unbeaten run for the side that no longer had the services of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. Dale Steyn's recurring injuries made him unavailable for most parts of the second half of the decade. But series wins in Australia and New Zealand kept the Proteas record of being good travelers alive.
Successive Test series wins in Australia in 2012 and 2016 and over Australia at home in 2017-18 are highlights of a decade that started with South Africa being a dominant side and ended with them struggling to make an impact. They were No. 1 in Tests between August 2012 and November 2015, but their record in Asia left a lot to be desired. The Proteas won only 3 Tests out of 19 in the continent, and only one series, in Sri Lanka (2014).
They failed to make any impact in away conditions post the New Zealand tour, winning just one out of nine Tests. 1-3, 0-2 and 0-3 defeats in England, Sri Lanka, and India, where they failed to put up a fight, have made sure the South Africans end the decade as a side that has a lot to work upon to rebuild a formidable team.
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South Africa's white-ball form was consistent between major tournaments but non-existent at the big moments. They crashed out of the 2011, 2015 and 2019 World Cups, the 2013 and 2017 Champions Trophies, and the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 World T20s. Their major trophy cabinet only holds a solitary piece of silverware from more than 20 years ago - the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy.
South Africa, like England, finish the decade as a team much unrecognisable from the team they were at the start of the decade; albeit in a negative way. Having started the decade with a promise to finally lay a hand on the coveted World Cup trophy, the Proteas towards the later stages of the decade faltered and choked, repeatedly.
They entered the 2011 World Cup as one of the favorites; the win against India in the group stage adding to the belief of the team and the fans. However yet another choke in a knockout game saw them bow out of the tournament from the quarter-finals. From a comfortable position, a batting collapse triggered by the wicket of Kallis led to a shocking exit for the Smith-led side.
Cometh the 2015 World Cup, South Africa were once again in red hot form, this time led by AB de Villiers. Despite a heavy defeat against India, the Proteas looked in prime form throughout the tournament. They looked certain to set foot for the first time in the World Cup finals for the most part of the semifinal against hosts New Zealand; the same opponent who kicked them out in the quarter finals in 2011. Yet another instance of crumbling under pressure, this time in the fielding department by experienced campaigners saw their dreams shattered. The whole team was in tears on the field, and so were their fans all over the world, which will go down as one of the most heart-breaking moments of the decade.
By the 2019 World Cup, most of their stalwarts had either gone, injured or were on the verge of retirement. That showed in the performance as they were a pale shadow of themselves in the tournament. They ended the tournament with a win over Australia but were below par throughout the World Cup. The seventh place finish in the 2019 World Cup ended as one of their worst performances in World Cups ever. Despite the blip in the later stages of the decade, South Africa were the second most successful this decade, with a win percentage of 62.29% (114 wins from 183 completed games).
Moments of glory:
Winning the Test mace in 2012 was the culmination of a period of excellence for South Africa's Test side. The Proteas had the experience of Graeme Smith as captain, the serenity of Hashim Amla, the sensational AB de Villiers, and the most skilled bowling attack around, with swing and speed from Dale Steyn, bounce from Morné Morkel, and subtle seam movement from Vernon Philander.
Test XI of the decade: Graeme Smith (c), Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Jacques Kallis, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada
ODI XI of the decade: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (c), JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir
T20 XI of the decade: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (c), JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir