A Look At South Africa’s Test XI ∼ South Africa’s Test captain and coach (Dean Elgar and Mark Boucher) deemed this summer a success following two back-to-back Test series victories, an ODI clean sweep over India, albeit outside the World Cup Super League, and a stronger-than-expected showing at the T20 World Cup, where South Africa narrowly missed out on the semi-finals, which kept sports betting fans on the edge of their seats.
In 2021-22, South Africa won 13 of 19 matches across all formats, including five Tests. They are now second in the World Test Championship (WTC) points standings and are in an excellent position to contend for a spot in the final – something that appeared improbable when they fell to seventh soon before the conclusion of the last WTC cycle.
South Africa began to show indications of improvement as a Test team as they chased record totals at the Wanderers and Newlands to move from 1-0 down to 2-1 up against India. Then, they bounced back from a devastating setback in New Zealand within three days to win the following match and even the series, before brushing over Bangladesh 2-0 without their complete frontline pace pack on subcontinental rather than South African conditions.
“We’ve had a great summer as a cricketing country, not just as a Test side,” Elgar added. “I believe we are on the right track and conducting ourselves appropriately. I am quite pleased with our Test summer and the depth of our selection pool. I am happy with the group of guys we fielded.”
South Africa chose two specialist spinners in their Test XI for the first time since readmission. Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer combined for 20 wickets in the second innings of both the Durban and Gqeberha Tests, indicating that South Africa’s strategy around slower bowling has shifted. “These were quite different circumstances. We were always aware that the wickets would have a greater turn, particularly at these two locations”, Boucher said. “It’s allowed people to come out here and play a different style of cricket, which has been very entertaining to watch.”South Africa has admitted that their batting has not been up to par despite their bowling prowess. There was, unfortunately, no century scored in the five home Tests and just one season total above 400, something Elgar wishes to rectify.
At A Glance
South Africa had two scores in the 90’s – Elgar’s unbroken 96 against India in Johannesburg and Temba Bavuma’s 93 in the first innings against India in Durban – and both came from the leadership tandem.
Elgar and Bavuma are South Africa’s top run-scorers in Tests this year and have established a senior core around which the rest of the bats may grow.
According to Boucher, their opposing personalities but a common goal for South Africa is what makes them critical to the present setup.
Elgar’s first home season as captain ended with the Gqeberha Test. Boucher will face a formal disciplinary hearing in May, with the CSA pursuing his expulsion for his treatment of race-related concerns, casting doubt on his future.
South Africa might face England in their next Test in August with a new backroom staff and another period of rebuilding.
Elgar is too early to speculate on what this may imply for the second part of the present World Test Championship and the future, but whatever it is, he is prepared. “Everything entails a degree of difficulty. I like all the challenges, which is why I am still playing Test cricket at the age of almost 35,” he said. “I believe I still have many excellent years and maybe even my greatest years ahead of me. If I had been younger, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much. This remains a tremendous honour. I’ve been enjoying it so far. The previous year has been difficult off the field, but I’m fortunate to have an incredible core of guys that understand me as a person, a player, and a person and the kind of cricket I want to play moving ahead. Everyone gradually accepted it. We have arrived in a really unique location.”