Cape Town - The Proteas series win against India was monumental.
This come-from-behind 2-1 series win is one for the ages and it can’t be overstated just how huge a plus it is for the Proteas and for the embattled Cricket South Africa.
It is also the series that could prove the international career-defining one for top order batsman Keegan Petersen, who was the success story of the series.
Petersen is no youngster. He is 28 years old and has been playing first-class cricket for nearly a decade. But at Newlands he played with the confidence and calm of a player who had been playing Test cricket for the last 10 years.
Petersen, at the Wanderers, showed his class in making his first Test half-century and he backed it up at Newlands with two half-centuries (72 and 82), and without his contributions it is unlikely South Africa would have downed India.
The Indians are one hell of a good side and they have the most balanced team in Test cricket. The batting line-up matches the bowling attack for potency, which is why the magnitude of the Proteas victory at Newlands and in the context of the series, cannot be overstated.
The Proteas also did it without home crowd support as the visitors would only tour if the matches were played without crowds.
Petersen, batting at No 3, was given no soft introduction to Test cricket and he invariably found himself at the crease within half an hour of the South African innings. His calm was impressive, but it was his technique that won him applause from one of the game’s greatest batters in AB de Villiers.
The long and the short is Keegan Petersen CAN play! I’m very excited with the composure, skill and technique I’ve seen against one of the best attacks in the world.— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) January 12, 2022
“The long and the short is Keegan Petersen CAN play! I’m very excited with the composure, skill and technique I’ve seen against one of the best attacks in the world,” tweeted De Villiers.
The De Villiers tweet proved as popular as Petersen’s second innings 82, with 24 500 likes, 1168 retweets and 257 comments.
Others in the cricketing community, from former players to those who write about the game, raved about Petersen’s organisation as a batter and the clarity in his shot selection.
Former Proteas top order batter Darryl Cullinan also spoke of Petersen’s footwork and time on the shot as a skill set that determines so much of a top order batter’s ability to triumph in Test cricket.
There was also plenty of talk about Petersen’s ability to handle pressure, given that he was striding to the crease with the Proteas scores on 0, 2, 4, 1 and 14 in his introduction to Test cricket.
He grew with each innings in these three Tests against India, but it was the manner in which he played at Newlands that would have comforted the selectors and supporters of the Proteas.
The Proteas top six has looked fragile for some time, but with Petersen slotting in so well at No 3, Rassie van der Dussen making two significant contributions at the Wanderers and Newlands and Temba Bavuma playing with presence and with supreme confidence, the Proteas were able to defy the best attack in Test cricket and, in doing so, they defied all the odds that so heavily favoured the Indians before a ball was bowled in the series.
Petersen, Van der Dussen and Bavuma are all examples of perseverance and reward. Petersen, having made his first-class debut for Boland in 2012, has played just five Tests, with the first of those against the West Indies in 2021.
Inconsistency was a word used often when describing Petersen’s first-class career, but there was nothing inconsistent about his performances at the Wanderers and Newlands.
Some players announce their arrival in Test cricket almost immediately, and in this series Petersen and left-arm quick Marco Jansen have done just that.
Others take longer to settle, as with Bavuma, but this Indian series could also finally be the transitioning of Bavuma from a quality first-class cricketer to a quality Test batter.
Bavuma’s consistency was the standout among all the batters in this series, as it was in the previous series against Pakistan. Bavuma, in low-scoring Test matches, has returned scores of 40, 44 not out, 61, 52, 35 not out, 51, 23 not out, 28 and 32 not out in his last nine Test innings.
Jansen has been a revelation in his Test series debut, taking 19 wickets in three Tests and troubling the very best of the game’s batters in Virat Kohli.
Jansen has added a dimension to the South African attack and once Anrich Nortje returns from injury, the Proteas will boast the most lethal four-pronged pace attack when you factor in Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada.
Rabada was another to find form at just the right time in the series, and his three-wicket burst in the Indian second innings at the Wanderers turned the momentum of the series.
Rabada is a special talent and one of the finest fast bowlers, be it with a white or red ball, but it is the nature of Test cricket that brings out the finest in
Rabada because he isn’t the type of fast bowler who needs the new ball to strike.
Rabada’s threat is even greater when the ball gets older and he struck every 36 balls in taking 20 wickets in the series.
Rabada is just 26 years old and his workload will have to be managed, given that he has played 50 Tests and that he also leads the Proteas attack in ODIS and T20s.
Rabada already has 233 Test wickets at an incredible strike rate of 40.7. He is essential to the well-being of the
Proteas. It was great to see him with a smile on his face, charging in at Newlands and ultimately winning the battle against Kohli.
It was great to see all of the Proteas, including their coach Mark Boucher, grinning from ear to ear.
And with good reason because at the Wanderers and Newlands the Proteas delighted in the way they delivered a series win against the best team in the world.