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The best South African Test XI from 1991 to 2020

South Africa is a successful Test nation
South Africa is a successful Test nation
Meit Sampat
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 09 Apr 2020, 23:57 IST
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South Africa have been a competitive force in international cricket since their re-admission in 1991. The team has played fearless, positive, and an aggressive brand of cricket and is considered as one of the top teams in the world.

In the last 29 years since being re-admitted to international cricket, South Africa have done considerably well in Test cricket. The team occupied the top spot in the ICC Test rankings for a brief period between 2012 to 2014.

South Africa have won many Tests on home soil as well as in foreign conditions in the last three decades. The team has been blessed with cricketers who have contributed to the success of the team.

On that note, let us take a look at the best South African Test XI in the last 29 years. Assuming that the team would play at home, it would comprise 6 batsmen, one wicket-keeper, three fast bowlers, and a lone spinner.

Openers (1-2)

Graeme Smith (Captain)

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Grame Smith was a successful opener and captain for South Africa.
Grame Smith was a successful opener and captain for South Africa.

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The former South African skipper is one of the most successful captains in the history of Test cricket. He is the only cricketer to captain a team in over 100 Tests and win over 50 Tests. In 108 Tests as captain, Smith was victorious in 53 Tests and lost 28 while the remaining 27 were draws. He was an inspirational leader on and off the field and an indisputable captain to lead this team.

As a batsman and opener of the South African team, Smith scored 9265 Test runs, with 27 centuries at an impressive average of 47.76. 5 of those hundreds were big doubles, thereby proving his temperament to play big innings. Not surprisingly, Smith was the skipper when South Africa reached the numero uno position in Test cricket.

Gary Kirsten

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Gary Kirsten
Gary Kirsten

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Gary Kirsten, the former coach of the South African team, will be the perfect opening partner for Graeme Smith in this team. Kirsten was a sturdy batsman at the top of the order whoput a price on his wicket. He loved to play long innings after getting his eye in.

The left-hander is the first batsman in the history of Test cricket to score hundreds against 9 different Test nations.

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In 149 innings as an opener, the Kirsten scored 5726 runs, with 14 hundreds and 28 half-centuries, at an average of 41.80 . Overall, he scored 7289 Test runs at an average of 45.27, bagging 21 centuries to his credit. Kirsten and Smith will complement each other at the crease and lay a strong foundation for the team.

Top Order (3-4)

Hashim Amla

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Hashim Amla holds the record for the highest ever individual Test score by a South African player.
Hashim Amla holds the record for the highest ever individual Test score by a South African player.

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Former South African batsman Hashim Amla is the ideal number three batsman in this team. Amla was an extremely calm player who had a penchant and temperament to play long innings. The right-hander's unbeaten 311 against England at the Oval in July 2012 is the highest individual Test score by a South African player.

Amla retired from Test cricket in 2019 after a prolific career for South Africa. He scored 9282 Test runs, with 28 centurues, at an average of 46.64.

The 37-year-old was at ease against both spinners and fast bowlers and tasted success in the sub-continent too. This is evident in his average of over 60 in 10 Tests in India. South Africa was blessed to have a top-order batsman of the calibre of Amla in their ranks.

Jacques Kallis

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Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest all-rounders to have played the game.
Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest all-rounders to have played the game.
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Jacques Kallis is considered to be the greatest player to have played cricket for South Africa. The all-rounder is the only one to score over 10000 runs and pick up over 250 wickets in both Tests and ODI cricket. Kallis is an automatic choice in any team due to his all-round skills.

The right-hander scored 9033 Test runs, with 35 Test hundreds, at an average of 61.87 batting at no. 4. Overall, Kallis aggregated 13289 Test runs, with 45 hundreds, at an average of 55.37. He is the third-highest run-scorer in the history of Test cricket and only second to Sachin Tendulkar for most centuries in the format.

Kallis also has picked up 292 Test wickets at an average of 32.65 and has taken 200 catches to his credit. The 44-year-old was a three-dimensional player and one of the best the game of cricket has ever witnessed.

Middle-order (5-6)

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Daryll Cullinan

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Daryll Cullinan averaged over 44 in Test matches.
Daryll Cullinan averaged over 44 in Test matches.
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Daryll Cullinan may seem to be a surprise pick in the team but the right-hander has an impressive Test average of 44.21 in 115 innings.

Though the 14-time Test centurion scored the bulk of his runs in the format at number 4, he takes the number 5 slot in this team. This is due to the fact that Jacques Kallis has scored more runs and has a better average than Cullinan at no. 4.

Cullinan averaged more than 40 with the bat in countries like India, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. However, the right-hander had a torrid time against Australia, particularly against Shane Warne.

His highest Test score of 275 was a South African record for 5 years till Graeme Smith scored 277 against England at Edgbaston in 2003. Cullinan was an effective run-scorer in the middle order and played several useful innings to steady the South African ship.

AB de Villiers

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 AB de Villiers is an exciting player when in full flight.
 AB de Villiers is an exciting player when in full flight.

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One of the most dynamic cricketers to have ever played the game of cricket, AB de Villiers comes in at number 6 in this team.

De Villiers could change the course of Test matches in a session by scoring quick runs and counter-attacking the opposition. Additionally, he could also control his natural instincts and play defensively to salvage creditable draws for his team.

An average of 50.66 and 8765 Test runs with 22 Test centuries are unmistakable marks of a classy player. Scoring runs all around the globe, De Villiers averaged more than 40 in all major Test-playing nations. Only against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, whom he played only twice and once respectively, the 36-year-old averaged less than 40.

Wicket Keeper (7)

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Mark Boucher

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Mark Boucher holds the record for most Test dismissals by a wicket-keeper.
Mark Boucher holds the record for most Test dismissals by a wicket-keeper.

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Mark Boucher holds the record for most Test dismissals (555) by a wicket-keeper, effecting 532 catches and 23 stumpings. He is generally regarded as one of the best wicket-keepers to have played cricket in the modern era.

Along with his reliable wicket-keeping, Boucher was a handy batsman lower down the order who scored vital runs for South Africa. He has 5515 Test runs, with 5 centuries and 35 half-centuries, at an average of 30.30. Boucher perfectly fits the role of a wicket-keeper batsman which is a requirement of the modern game.

The 43-year-old is presently the coach of the South African team.

Fast bowlers (8-10)

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Shaun Pollock

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Shaun Pollock is the second-highest wicket-taker in Test matches for South Africa.
Shaun Pollock is the second-highest wicket-taker in Test matches for South Africa.

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Shaun Pollock ended his Test career with 421 Test wickets, at an average of 23.11. Pollock had 16 5-wicket hauls in an innings and match haul of 10 wickets. The right-armer was the highest wicket-taker in Tests for South Africa before being overtaken by Dale Steyn (439) in 2018.

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Pollock was an effective bowler with the new ball who provided vital breakthroughs for his team. The 46-year-old was also a handy batsman lower than the order, scoring 3781 Test runs, with two centuries, at a decent average of 32.32.

Dale Steyn

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Dale Steynhas the most Test wickets by a South African player.
Dale Steynhas the most Test wickets by a South African player.

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Dale Steyn is one of the finest fast bowlers to have played the game. He held the number one position in the ICC Test rankings for 263 weeks from the years 2008 to 2014. Steyn is the leading wicket-taker for South Africa in Test cricket.

In a 15-year-career, the right-armer picked up 439 wickets at an average of 22.95 and a strike rate of 42.39. Adept with both the new ball and the old, Steyn tasted success in conditions that did not suit fast bowlers.

The 36-year-old picked up 26 Test wickets in India at an average of 21.38. Incidentally Steyn produced his best innings haul of 7/51 in Nagpur in 2010, in a match South Africa won by an innings and 6 runs.

Allan Donald

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Allan Donald
Allan Donald

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Nicknamed "White Lightning", Allan Donald was one of the most successful bowlers to play Test cricket for South Africa. The fast-bowling trio of Pollock, Steyn and Donald would instill fear in the minds of any opposition in any conditions around the world.

In his prime, Donald's pace unnerved the best of opposition batsmen. His 330 Test wickets at an average of 22.25 consisted of 20 five-wicket hauls.

The right-armer played a pivotal role in South Africa's success in the nineties and early 2000s, following their re-admission in 1991.

Spinner (11)

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Paul Adams

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 Paul Adams
 Paul Adams

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Paul Adams is the lone spinner to make it to the playing XI.

The left-arm chinaman bowler is the most successful South African spinner to have played the game during 1991-2020. Adams took 134 Test wickets, with 4 5-wicket hauls to his credit, at an average of 32.87.

Adam's unorthodox bowling action makes him a unique bowler. The 43-year-old narrowly usurps the likes of Nicky Boke and Keshav Maharaj to take the final spot in this team.

Published 09 Apr 2020, 23:57 IST
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