The manner in South Africa were thrashed by the Australians at Centurion, there were plenty of worries for the home side as they headed into Port Elizabeth. But, like true champions, the Proteas fought back and proved why they deserve the number one Test team tag. With South’s victory setting up a much-deserved decider at Cape Town, we look back at the men who made South Africa’s sensational comeback at PE possible.
AB De Villiers: Batting first in the Test, South Africa needed to post a big total on board. They were trouble early on when they lost skipper Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla cheaply. But, the experience of de Villiers helped South Africa recover from the jolts. His aggressive 116 came off 232 balls and featured 14 fours and one six. de Villiers, who is in the form of the life, counter-attacked without being reckless. Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar chipped in with half-centuries, but it was de Villiers’ knock that put the hosts firmly on top.
JP Duminy: The middle-order batsman was under immense pressure to keep his place in the side. It had been a while since he had come up with a big score. But Duminy answered his critics in style. Batting as low as number seven, he played an innings of pure class. It helped Duminy’s cause that by the time he came into bat, South Africa were in a decent position, but he did play a massive part in the hosts going past the 400 mark, featuring in a wonderful partnership with de Villiers. Duminy’s 123 came off 231 balls with 14 fours, and was chiefly responsible for the side ending up with 423 on the board.
Vernon Philander: The fast bowler played a key role in South Africa’s victory by picking up big Australian wickets. When the Aussies batted first, Philander dismissed Chris Rogers and skipper Michael Clarke cheaply to put the batting side under immense pressure. He later came back to dismiss David Warner, who was looking threatening, as a result of which South Africa gained a massive first-innings lead. Philander chipped in with the wickets of Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Johnson in the second innings to finish with five for the match.
Hashim Amla: Having failed in the earlier three innings, including a duck in the first innings, Amla came out all guns blazing in the second. South Africa already had a significant lead, but Amla’s smashing unbeaten 127 from 176 balls was a master class as he hit 16 fours in an unusually flamboyant knock. Amla’s century meant Australia had to chase a mammoth fourth innings total.
Dale Steyn: Had it not been for the speedster’s brilliant spell on the fourth day, the Test would have entered the final day. In a fine display of fast bowling, Steyn sent back Clarke, Smith, Haddin and Harris in quick succession as Australia collapsed after a confident start. Steyn finished with wonderful figures of 4 for 55 as South Africa registered a famous triumph against the Aussies.
--By A Cricket Analyst