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10 greatest South African cricketers of all time

Aubrey Faul
Aubrey Faulkner (R) with teammate Jimmy Sinclair
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Chaitanya Halgekar

Despite missing out on international cricket for two decades (1970-1991), South Africa has remained a strong team in Test cricket. Ater Australia, South Africa has retained the ICC Test Championship title for the longest period (42 months).

Also, the Proteas have a phenomenal overseas Test record and until a few years back they were considered as a strong touring team in world cricket. These glorious achievements in Test cricket are a result of tremendous hard work by their cricketers who stirred the cricket world with their sensational performances.

Here we take a look at the ten all time great South African cricketers who made their mark in record books and also in the hearts of cricket fans with their consistency and sheer brilliance.


#10. Aubrey Faulkner

With a batting average of 40.79 and bowling average of 26.58 in Tests, Aubrey Faulkner was arguably one of the finest all-rounders in Test cricket. However, his career spanned only 25 Tests.

In 1910/11 he routed Australia with a sensational double hundred at Melbourne while his probing bowling at Leeds pulverized England in the third Test and he ended with six wickets in 17 runs. His leg break bowling included googly which was a rare weapon of that era.

Faulkner was one of the first leg-spinners to use googly accurately but his greatest achievement came in 1921 when he first scored 153 and then claimed six wickets against Australia to stamp his dominance.

#9. Mark Boucher

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When Mark Boucher retired from Test cricket in 2012 due to an unfortunate and freak injury to his right eye, he had behind him 555 Test dismissals, a world record and a reputation of being one of the greatest wicket-keepers cricket has ever seen.

Boucher, for the most part of his career, remained the first-choice wicket-keeper for South Africa and he is the lone man to have more than 500 catches in Tests. In batting too, he wasn't a novice. His average of 30.30 proves the fact - and he played 147 Tests, which is an impressive feat.

#8. Hashim Amla

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One of the most respected cricketers of the modern era, Hashim Amla has achieved enough to make it to the all time list of Sout Arica's greatest Test cricketers. Hailed for his impeccable patience, Amla has more than eight thousand Test runs along with 26 hundreds and is the first Proteas batsman to reach the triple figure mark.

Amla's emergence in Test cricket wasn't memorable but he went back, tweaked his technique and made a sensational comeback. His unorthodox trigger movement enables him to play flashing drives on the off-side while his lovely wrists allow him to flick deliveries without much trouble.

He scored 490 runs (253*, 114, 123*) in three innings against India in 2010 and ensured South Africa drew the series; in 2012 he amassed 311* in the first Test against England. His century in the third Test meant South Africa pocketed the series 2-0 and reached the top of ICC Test rankings.

#7. Allan Donald

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The man who spearheaded South Africa's performances after their readmission in cricket in 1991, Allan Donald was a complete pace bowler. A smooth action, probing pace and ability to generate swing made Donald one of the best bowlers in international cricket during the 1990s.

He was the first South African to take 300 Test wickets and ended his career with an impressive bowling average of 22.25. In 72 Tests, he claimed 330 wickets and enjoyed a sterling bowling strike rate of 47.

#6.Dudley Nourse

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At the age of forty, Dudley Nourse came to the crease against England in 1951 at Nottingham with a broken right thumb and batted for nine hours.

Those nine hours were full of terrible pain and tremendous grit and when the ordeal came to an end, Nourse had scored the first double-hundred by a South African against England and had also laid the foundation of South Africa's first Test win for 16 years.

That innings at Nottingham saw the best of Nourse who was a master of the art of batting.

In his 34 Test appearances, Nourse slammed nine Test hundreds and amassed 2960 runs. His average of 53.81 reflect his batting ability and he also captained the Proteas team from 1948 to 1951.

#5. Dale Steyn

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Fast, ferocious and tremendously pumped up, Dale Steyn is undoubtedly the most feared and the most consistent pacer in Test cricket in the last one decade. When on the song, he can pitch the ball wherever he wants to, can swing it in both ways and can ball at wanted pace.

But what separates him from the rest is his ability to repeat this ordeal over after over and on any surface in the world. In 85 Tests, he has 417 wickets, the second-most by any South African at a stunning average of 22.30.

His strike rate of 41.4 is the best among bowlers with more than 100 Test wickets but the South African bowler's greatest achievement is the fact that he kept the art of genuine pace bowling alive in an era when the game tilted in the favor of the batsmen the most.

#4. Hugh Tayfield

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Hugh Tayfield (R)

For a country which has rarely produced quality spinners, Hugh Tayfield remains as a pleasant exception. Courtesy of his impeccable accuracy and control he is regarded as one of the best off-spinners in Tests and he was until 2008, the fastest bowler from his country to reach to 100 Test wickets.

An average of 25.91 and incredible economy rate of 1.94 suggests the quality of off-spin Tayefield delivered. England found it the wrong way when he picked nine wickets at Johannesburg in 1956/7. In that game, he bowled 35 overs without any break. In the same series, in the earlier Test, he bowled 137 consecutive dot balls.

#3. Shaun Pollock

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South Africa's leading wicket-taker in Tests, Shaun Pollock's batting average of 32.31 reveals why he is one of the most valuable players in Test cricket.

A man with effective bowling action, sharp pace and plenty of variations, Pollock tagged with Donald to form one of the most dangerous pace-bowling attacks in Test cricket. His bowling prowess was reflected when he grabbed seven wickets on a batting pitch at Adelaide against Australia in 1997.

His batting too was effective and he was a useful batsman lower down the order. He has two Test hundreds and 16 fifties to his name.

#2. Graeme Pollock

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Regarded by Don Bradman as the 'best left-hand batsman along with Garry Sobers, Graeme Pollock was indeed one of the finest players ever produced in cricket.

His batting average of 60.97 (only second to Bradman) in Tests is a testimony to his batting prowess which includes 18 fifty plus scores in 41 innings.

With South Africa suffering under divisive and racist apartheid, the cricket team saw a ban from international competition. As a result his career was cut short and unfortunately, he played only 23 Tests.

However such was his class, despite playing for such short duration, he was selected as the 'South Africa's player of the 20th century' and Wisden's Cricketers of the Year in 1966.

#1. Jacques Kallis

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More than 13 thousand runs and 292 wickets in Tests make Jacques Kallis, a 'once in a generation' all-rounder. His batting technique was solid while his bowling had all the right ingredients in it.

He served South Africa for 166 Tests, scored 45 hundreds, took 200 catches, averaged 32.65 with the ball and when he departed, South Africa was a highly confident and balanced unit, capable of winning Tests anywhere in the world.

His batting especially was of the highest standard, as he had a steel like defense with very few flaws while his strokeplay was elegant as well as powerful.

He was often stamped as an 'underrated and underutilized' bowler but even then he could surprise the batsmen with odd bounce and sharp swing. And in the field, he was a safe house at slips with his massive hands.

Edited by Anuradha Santhanam
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