The Standard Bank Proteas re-established their winning culture and picked up their first 30 points in the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) when they beat England by 107 runs with a day and a session to spare in the opening match of the four-match series at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on Sunday.
Having not picked up a single point in their opening WTC series in India it was important that they bounced back quickly, and they have the chance to pick up a possible 90 further points in the three remaining matches.
It was an important win for the Proteas as they held their nerve after England got into a strong position at the close of day three with nine wickets still in hand and the target batted down to little more than 250. They could not afford a repeat of the Kingsmead match earlier this year when they let Sri Lanka off the hook.
The match also provided conclusive evidence that the franchise system is much stronger than the credit it is being given as once again players brought into the team with little or no international experience – Anrich Nortje, Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius – more than played their part.
Nortje’s performance in only his third Test after two very difficult matches in India was significant. Not only did he take 5 wickets in the match but his innings of 40 and his partnership of 91 with Van der Dussen was critical to the margin of victory as was the first innings lead of 103.
The Proteas have dished out 11 new caps over the last 27 months starting with Aiden Markram and Andile Phehlukwayo against Bangladesh and, taking into account how difficult the debuts in India were this year, they have nearly all been success stories.
Today’s final chapter was built around a disciplined bowling performance that kept England under pressure all day and restricted them to only two partnerships of note – 47 between Rory Burns and Joe Denly and 46 between Joe Root and Ben Stokes – and not any of the big ones that England needed to get over the line.
Burns (84 off 154 balls, 11 fours) finished England’s top scorer with Root’s 48 (101 balls, 8 fours) the next best.
Once again, England suffered a major collapse in the middle and lower order with the last seven wickets falling for 64 runs after the seven for 39 in the first innings.
Kagiso Rabada had the best bowling return of 4/103 to give him seven in the match in what was a good all-round performance by the bowling unit.
Quinton de Kock was named Man of the Match for his 129 runs and 8 catches in the match.
The Sunfoil Education Trust (SET) benefited to the extent of R240 000 from the number of boundaries and sixes hit in the match by the two sides as well as wickets taken.