South Africa recently completed a 3-0 whitewash over Pakistan on home turf to propel themselves back to second place in the ICC Test rankings. For the Proteas, newcomer Duanne Olivier was instrumental with the ball, picking up a whopping 24 wickets in three Tests. Nevertheless, it was the collective team resilience and contribution that outlines this generation of South African cricket, who are turning out to be a team and a half in an era of individual superstars.

Many in the cricketing fraternity touted South Africa to struggle when AB De Villiers announced his sudden retirement in May of 2018. However, the likes of Faf du Plesis, Hashim Amla and others have ensured the Proteas remain in the forefront of Test cricket. Even in this recent series sweep against Pakistan, none of their batsmen set the world alight but their cumulative efforts helped propel the team over the line in all three games. 

Unlike India who are heavily reliant on Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting or New Zealand whose past triumphs came majorly courtesy Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, the African side have a batting line-up complimenting each other with no real standout performer. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plesis, who are South Africa’s most experienced players, faltered in this recent series but the batting was well guided by the others like Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn and the ever reliable Temba Bavuma. 

The Proteas’ batting line-up are a pair of unshakable dominoes, not falling apart on the slightest push but staying firm even to the strongest of gusts. If a few of their top order flop, the middle-order and the tail help rebuild the innings. The likes of Bavuma and de Kock have made a name for themselves by constantly rescuing the team from difficult situations. Very seldom do South Africa have complete batting capitulations where the team gets bundled out in a little more than a session. 

Similarly, the bowling unit as well have performed well together to make South Africa a feared tour for any opposition. Like hyenas in the savannah, they South African pacers work in packs, wounding and wearing down the opponents until they finally succumb. While Olivier was the pick of the bowlers this time around, the disciplined bowling of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada was instrumental to the Proteas success. 

Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

Also, the ingenuity of Vernon Philander to bowl slower with a shortened run up to maintain the over rate allowed the other pacers to bowl aggressively. Underutilized in this series, spinner Keshav Maharaj has also been a prudent addition to the South African bowling unit’s successes in contemporary times. 

In an era where Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith are in constant skirmishes to become their nations messiah, the South African cricket team have undertaken a different approach which sees each player contribute their little bit for a collective team win. While most teams depend on a few individuals to get them through the line, Ottis Gibson’s South Africa are building a team and a half for the years to come.