Proteas in series whitewash of Pakistan
'A special summer'"It was a special summer. We spent so long on the road last year. We wanted to come home and be really positive and play some exciting cricket and we were really looking forward to playing in front of our own fans," captain Graeme Smith said at the post-match awards' ceremony. "It was great to see them turn out and it was great to see the guys perform well wherever we went." South Africa's victory by an innings and 18 runs was their fifth win by an innings in their last six tests at Centurion and their 14th win against only one loss at the ground. It was also Smith's world record 50th win as a captain.
'Exciting'"It's exciting," he said, "to be on this journey with such an incredible group of cricketers, to be able to turn out results like we have. We're pushing each other hard, hoping to achieve more and more. "Fifty [wins] is a wonderful achievement. When I started captaining it was something that I never thought I would get to, so I'm very, very proud to be the first man [to achieve it], very, very proud to be a South African, and, hopefully, I'm looking forward to many more [wins]." Misbah ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, was magnanimous is his praise for the Proteas' performances in the three test series, which produced home wins inside four days in the first two games before the three-day victory at Centurion.
'They were the better team'"I think credit should be given to the South Africans," he said. "They were the better team and they proved it. They utilised the conditions very well and we had no answers." While South Africa has owned a very strong away record for a long time, their record at home has been slightly spotty, but it appears that series victories last year in England and Australia have helped lift the Proteas to new, very confident and effective heights. An especially impressive part of their run of success since a series win over Australia in December has been the manner in which new players have stepped in and immediately contributed. Faf du Plessis was crucial to the Proteas' win Down Under, Rory Kleinveldt has done his bit since then with the ball, and Dean Elgar, after starting with a pair, responded with a century against New Zealand.
AstonishingAt Centurion, the debutant was Kyle Abbott, a late replacement for Jacques Kallis, who pulled out of the game with a right calf injury. Grabbing his opportunity with both hands, the fast bowler from the Sunfoil Dolphins turned in an astonishing man of the match winning performance, knocking over 7 for 29 in Pakistan's first innings and 2 for 39 in their second innings to finish with match figures of 9 for 68. When receiving the cheque for man of the match, Abbott said of his approach to bowling: "I hit the deck hard and make the batsmen play as much as possible. I work on a theory of if they miss, I hit [the stumps] or they're edges. If I can get them playing five, even six balls in an over, I'm winning." Smith gave Abbott a chance to finish with 10 wickets in the match by giving him the ball late in the game. At the other end, Dale Steyn was going for a five-for in Pakistan's second innings, but when the last wicket pair of Rahat Ali and Mohammad Irfan showed some fight, adding 33, Smith chose to bring an end to the contest by handing the ball to left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, who had previously exposed the lower order's frailty against spin in Cape Town. He duly trapped Ali in front to bring the curtain down on an excellent series for South Africa. AB de Villiers was in the running for the man of the match award after making 121 in South Africa's innings of 409 all out, while Hashim Amla, the world's number one ranked test batsman, weighed in with 92. Vernon Philander enhanced his claim as an all-rounder with a career-best knock of 74.
Man of the seriesWhile De Villiers missed out on the man of the match award, he was named man of the series ahead of Dale Steyn, who picked up 20 wickets at 12.90 in the three matches. De Villiers was the top scorer on either side, making 352 runs at an average of 88, and also added 17 dismissals behind the stumps, including a world record equalling 11 in the first test at The Wanderers. "I'm enjoying my role as a wicketkeeping batsman. It was a good series," he said. Presenting a view that appears to be common to the players in the Proteas' squad, De Villiers added: "It's a very special group to play with, right from the management team, from [coach] Gary [Kirsten] to Kyle Abbott, who made his debut in this match, they're all special people working together, [aiming] in the same direction. We keep our feet on the ground and work really hard."
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