Making progress: Four boxes ticked by the Proteas against Sri Lanka

Top-order batsman Dean Elgar leads from the front and wants the job. Picture: Getty Images

While beating an injury-depleted Sri Lankan side 2-0 on the Highveld is not going to provide the best measure of the Proteas’ progress as a Test side, South Africa nevertheless ticked some boxes in their recent series.

These are some of the positives coach Mark Boucher can carry forward to the upcoming tour of Pakistan and then the home series against Australia.

The Proteas have a pair of veteran batsmen in Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis that the rest of the batting line-up can bat around.

The gritty, tenacious qualities of Elgar at the top of the order have always been apparent, but the 33-year-old is now also leading from the front with a more positive, aggressive mindset. Good starts are crucial for a batting line-up to consistently produce the goods and Elgar’s reliability is undimmed.

Du Plessis has brushed aside any suggestions his Test days may be numbered through his sheer hunger to still be playing, to still improve and still be scoring big runs. To have him in the crucial No 4 position, looking as good as he ever has, is a massive boon for the Proteas.

Lutho Sipamla’s successful introduction to Test cricket has increased South Africa’s pool of quality fast bowlers.

Sipamla suffered a nervy first day in Test cricket when he bowled his first 12 overs for 66 runs, going maiden and wicket-less. But he ended the series with highly creditable stats of 10 wickets for 167 runs; in other words, after his tough start, he bowled 27.5 overs and took 10 for 101.

Although obviously still raw, the 22-year-old showed he certainly has something. The spells where he was able to find a consistent line and length were especially probing.

With Kagiso Rabada making his way back from injury, Beuran Hendricks also in the picture and much excitement over the potential of Glenton Stuurman, the Proteas have half-a-dozen quicks to choose from.

Wiaan Mulder has the potential to do a similar all-round job to Jacques Kallis.

Mulder is ostensibly a batting all-rounder, but we only saw glimpses of his talent with the bat during his useful innings of 36 in the first Test. But his bowling was a revelation as he finished the series with nine wickets at an average of just 20.55.

The 22-year-old has wonderful skill with the ball and is clearly a thinking bowler. His control was also very good and, as Boucher said, he is not just a holding bowler but he also has a reputation for having a golden arm so he makes timely breakthroughs, as he did in both Tests.

This makes him an ideal fourth seamer, much like Kallis was. They are both bustling, strong bowlers and while Mulder will surely never touch the same heights of batting greatness as Kallis, he certainly has the ability to be an important run-scorer, even in the top six.

Rassie van der Dussen has made an encouraging start to life at No 3

Replacing the great Hashim Amla was always going to be a massive challenge, but Van der Dussen has performed creditably at one down in the batting order, averaging 45 there in four innings, with two half-centuries.

His slow start at the Wanderers drew an unnecessary amount of criticism and the fact that his approach was perfect for the match situation was borne out by the collapse of nine wickets for 84 runs that happened after his match-winning partnership of 184 with Elgar.

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