When Australia arrived in South Africa, it was clear that the Aussies were heavily handicapped owing to their lack of quality bowling resources. Still, the visitors would not have been dreading a 5-0 embarrassment. They would have hoped their strong batting would provide them relief. But, that wasn’t to be the case. While Australia’s bowling expectedly struggled, their batting too did not live up to expectations. In contrast, South Africa’s batsmen were at their very best in familiar conditions. Their bowling too struggled in a number of games, but their strong batting pulled them out.
Almost all key batsmen stood up and delivered for the hosts in the series. Of the batsmen, Rilee Rossouw was the most impressive. He finished the series as the second highest run-getter with two fifties and a hundred in the final match, which set up the 5-0 whitewash. Rossouw has been part of the team for a couple of years, but in this series he was at his very best, and it could possibly turn out to be his watershed moment. With the competition for places in the middle-order, South Africa’s batting looks very healthy at the moment.
One aspect that would please the hosts the most is the fact that the whitewash was achieved minus the injured AB de Villiers, their most dangerous batsman in the modern era. And, also without a significant contribution from Hashim Amla, who played in three of the matches, but totalled only 74 runs. At the top of the order, Quinton de Kock again shone. His 178 in the opening match watch a splendid effort, and he followed it up with a couple of other crucial knocks. After a brief lull in his career, de Kock now seems to be getting back to his best.
The Australia series was a significant one for stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis, all-round JP Duminy, and lower-order basher David Miller. All of them went into the series with their places under a cloud. But, all of them made an impression at various points during the series. Du Plessis got a hundred and a half-century to finish with an average of exactly 50, Duminy was in rollicking form lower down the order, playing the quick knocks while Miller played a blinder that gave South Africa victory in the match that seemed all but lost. In the bowling, Andile Phehlukwayo impressed with eight scalps.
As mentioned earlier, the Aussies did not have the bowling to stand up to South Africa’s challenge. Chris Tremain claimed seven scalps, but he went at 6.37. Scott Boland and John Hastings were more experienced of the bowlers, but they managed only five wickets each in three and four games respectively. Adam Zampa fared even more. Disappointingly, their star batting line-up also failed. David Warner got two hundreds, but both were in vain. Skipper Steven Smith had only one hundred to show for his efforts while George Bailey, Aaron Finch, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade all averaged in the 20s. These numbers hurt the Aussies as badly as their poor standard of bowling.
--By A Cricket Analyst