Proteas future looks bright despite first Test loss

Tom Harrington Roar Rookie

By Tom Harrington, Tom Harrington is a Roar Rookie

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    The aftermath of the first Test in Durban has been dominated by the fiery altercation that occurred in the stands at Kingsmead, an incident that has swung the narrative away from the enthralling contest.

    What too has mostly been lost, among this storm of accusation, was the performances of the younger tier within the South African outfit, new gems that stood tall in the face of an intimidating Australian barrage.

    There appeared to be reservations about the state of South African cricket before the beginning of the series, doubts about the continuation of a batch of stars that have led the Proteas for the best part of a decade.

    Only days before the first ball was sent down, Morne Morkel, one of these generational cricketers, announced that the series against the Australians would be his last, that his service to international cricket would go on no longer.

    In light of this, a curiosity hung over other senior members of the team, most notably AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, two sublime but ageing batsmen who have yet to confirm their intentions to remain within South African colours. Dale Steyn, the veteran quick who has often battled injury in past years, also had the familiar doubts cast upon his remaining time in the game.

    To some, a series against the Australians was seen as a perfect swansong for this group, a successful campaign against their fierce foe that would see them off into the African sunset, their service to cricket and country fulfilled. One can assume that it was this thought that wrapped itself around Morkel, and if he had arrived at this conclusion, then it is fair to suggest that his fellow decorated peers may be contemplating a similar finale.

    In the case that they do indeed wave farewell to the game, an uncertainty was predicted in regards to who will be left behind for the rainbow nation, a sudden void in generational talent that may never again be fully replenished.

    Such concerns about this impending state must have somewhat dissipated following the opening tie in Durban however, a contest that demonstrated the very talent that has begun to seep into this Proteas outfit.

    You had to look no further than Aiden Markram, and his fighting second innings hundred to understand the undoubted potential emerging from within. It was a knock of character from the 23-year old, one that belied his age and experience.

    Amidst a run chase that appeared almost impossible, and a horror run out of de Villiers that had the Australian fielders circling like – as Faf would describe – a ‘pack of dogs’, the young opener dug in, and accepted all that Mitch Starc and co had to offer. He had a maturity and resilience that made clear why he is considered a captain in waiting.

    With him during that spirited chase was keeper Quinton de Kock, who since the conclusion of play on Monday, has been embroiled in the headlines for all the wrong reasons – an inappropriate quip to David Warner that almost led to blows during the tea break on day 4.

    South Africa's Quinton de Kock

    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    The affair has largely taken away from his superb hand in a valiant Proteas fight back, an innings of 83 that along with Markram’s effort, had the Australians wondering if a target of 417 was sufficient. The comparisons have been made for years now between Adam Gilchrist and the young keeper, and it is not at all a stretch to contend that at the culmination of his career, he may sit beside the Australian champion, such is the talent he exudes.

    Kagiso Rabada, who troubled the Australians with his effortless pace and bounce at Kingsmead, also resides at the forefront of this new era. He has taken the Test world by storm since his debut against the Indians in late 2015, a term that has already seen him establish himself as one of the best fast bowlers in the world.

    Kagiso Rabada takes wicket of Kane Williamson

    (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

    His fiery nature on the field has landed him in trouble at times, but it is clear this manner also aids his bowling craft, one that has continually reaped rewards for his country.

    His rise in world cricket seems almost destined to be reflected by his childhood rival, Lungi Ngidi, who demonstrated his pace and skill in the recent series against India, one in which he claimed man of the match honours in his first fixture.

    With a nine-wicket haul, Keshav Maharaj also solidified his place in the team in Durban, and if he continues to turn and bounce the ball with similar success, he may complement the likes of Kagiso and Lungi for years to come.

    It provides another interesting side-note for a series that has already proven captivating, to observe if this new wave will continue to develop and drive the challenge against the Australian’s.

    Only time will tell if more will join Morkel in departing the Test cricket scene, and if this is indeed a final hurrah for these Protea champs, we can at least be thankful that we witnessed their ilk for as long as we did.

    Regardless of their intended plans, they can rest assured that the future for their beloved South Africa appears to be in safe hands.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • March 8th 2018 @ 10:09am
      Ouch said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Bowling wise for SA no problem. The young opener looks good but who is going to fill the shoes of Amla, De Villiers and Faf?

      • Roar Guru

        March 8th 2018 @ 11:31pm
        Ryan H said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:31pm | ! Report

        This is their issue I think – a pretty obvious lack of batting depth. Who is actually capable of filling those three middle order places ultimately? I’d say Bavuma for sure, maybe de Bruyn can find the mettle for test cricket, but otherwise I’m not sure there is much else?

        Perhaps someone like Klaasen will play as a batsman

    • Roar Guru

      March 8th 2018 @ 10:12am
      JamesH said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      I dunno… I reckon this is a bit of an optimistic take. The pending departures of Morkel, Steyn, Amla, de Villiers, du Plessis and probably Philander over the next 6-24 months will leave a hole you could see from the moon. Markram, de Kock, Maharaj and Rabada are a decent group to rebuild around but there have to be question marks beyond that.

      Elgar is solid, yet unlikely to get significantly better, while Ngidi hasn’t been tested on anything other than a greentop. Even if you include those two, that’s still only six players, with four gaps remaining in the top seven (including at 3, 4 and 5). If you need to rely on the likes of de Bruyn and Bavuma to play these roles then you’ll be up against it for a few years.

      • March 8th 2018 @ 6:19pm
        Tom Harrington said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

        Fair point re batting lineup, they would love to unearth a couple more batsmen over the next few years. Thought du Bruyn showed glimpses in Durban however. Will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next year or two

    • March 8th 2018 @ 10:43am
      GD66 said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Indeed. Kerry O’Keeffe pointed out Faf’s footwork, announced he believes he will not score a 50 on this tour and described him as a walking wicket, with Elgar and Amla included in a group of aging players shuffling toward the door. SA are hard buggers, I reckon they have the goods to fight back here but the future does look a little cloudy.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm
      Tanmoy Kar said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      For South Africa to do well, seniors like Elgar, Amla, DuPlessi have to contribute in both or either of the innings.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 10:06pm
      Brian said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

      I think their future is more bleak. They don’t have the money to keep guys playing and so the standard of everything drops. Not having Abbott or Rossouw means there is little pressure on guys like De Bruyn.

      Their bowling does look with Rabada, Ngidi & Maharaj. Add Olivier and Morris and there is somethig there. The bating though will may rely on Markram and De Kock for a long time. Both those guys can also play T20 so how long will they hang around for.

    • Roar Guru

      March 8th 2018 @ 10:20pm
      biltongbek said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

      Proteas are going into a transitional phase.

      Soon Amla, de Villiers etc will retire, batting at international level takes time for a new batsman to adjust and become consistent, there are heaps of talent in SA.

      The trnsitional phase is temporary and then you will find SA having built another formidable squad

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