Graeme Smith’s statement that, with a little bit of luck and better application, they could have won the Test series against England 3-1 is a fair assessment. However, it wouldn’t also be wrong to say that the visitors battled mighty hard to save the two Tests and as such the end result 1-1 can be seen as a rather just one.
The series will, in particular, be remembered for Graham Onions’ two-match saving efforts with the bat, wherein he played out the final over of the game in a composed manner to peeve the Proteas. It epitomized the English fightback, though they collapsed in the final Test.
South Africa had just one atrocious innings with the bat, and it pretty much cost them a series victory. However, one still has to credit them for the way they fought back in the final Test and demolished the Englishmen. Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn bowled splendidly and the batting was led admirably by skipper Smith. Even with an in-form batting line-up, England could do little and Andrew Strauss had to end up sharing the series trophy with Graeme Smith.
Throughout the four Tests, there were exceptional performances from either sides. Graeme Swann was without an iota of doubt the star of the series from the English point of view. Rarely have spinners done well in South Africa and rarely have England produced quality spinners in recent years.
But, Swann is different and his success story on this tour is ample proof of it. An off-spinner in the traditional mould, his capability of beating the batsman in the flight was a sight for cricket lovers, who are fans of the aesthetic components of the game.
Add to it, the valuable contributions he made with the willow throughout the series, which benefited England in a major way and you have a sureshot match-winner. If the visitors still struggled in the bowling department, it was because the others like James Anderson and Graeme Swann weren’t as consistently effective.
England did rediscover a few batting heroes though, none bigger that Paul Collingwood. He was the man who stood between South Africa and victory in thorn and flesh. Not the most artistic of players. Collingwood did his job of staying at the crease for long durations, blocking deliveries using all his batting resources.
It was his undying efforts that went a long way in ensuring that England saved two Tests. Ian Bell was another grafter who rose to the occasion, with a match-winning hundred and a match-saving half-century in consecutive Tests. Opener Alastair Cook also made vital contributions at different points in the series.
South Africa, on the other hand, owe a lot to Steyn and Morkel, who won them the final Test. That said, the contributions of Mark Boucher as both keeper and batsman as well as those of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis cannot be overlooked. The captain Smith himself showed the team the way forward in crunch situations. At the end of the day, it was only just that the teams shared the spoils.
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