The South African cricket team may have won last week’s Boxing Day Test against Pakistan in Centurion, yet slipped down the world rankings to fourth spot at the start of the new year.
However the hosts, who won the first Test by six wickets inside three days, have a chance to climb up the rankings when the New Year’s Test starts at Newlands, Cape Town today, and should they secure a whitewash in the series they will climb even higher, dependent on other results abroad.
Despite the win, Faf du Plessis’ men will enter the second Test knowing they were far from their best. In fact, Pakistan were seemingly in control at 101/1 in the second innings before crashing to 190 all out, and setting the Proteas a modest target of just 149.
While the home side’s batsmen struggled in Centurion, their bowlers looked the part. Seamer Duanne Olivier, in just his sixth Test, made the most of his call-up to replace the injured Vernon Philander to finish with match figures of 11/96.
Veteran fast bowler Dale Steyn showed some signs of returning to his best and became the country’s leading Test wicket-taker in the process, while Kagiso Rabada added six scalps to his tally with a typically consistent performance.
Philander, who has taken 49 Test wickets at an average of just 16.55 with a strike rate of 35.1 at his home ground, has recovered from his injury and will play. So too will first Test Man-of-the-Match Olivier. So the Proteas will have to tweak their winning formula.
Tickets for the second Test are selling like hotcakes. Almost 50 000 tickets across the five days were sold by noon yesterday.
And Pakistan know they have to find a way to fight back at Newlands – an unhappy hunting ground for them. They have lost all three Tests there.
Long may the Proteas’ dominance over Pakistan in the Cape continue.