IT’S been quite a year for South African cricket. Here are the top five defining moments of 2016:
1. South Africa 7-1 Australia
Having lost five of eight tests last season, come unstuck in the first round of the World T20 in March and failed to reach the final of a one-day triangular in West Indies in June, South Africa’s rousing comeback in their test and one-day series against Australia in October and November was just the tonic the game in this country needed.
2. Captain Faftastic
An important part of South Africa’s turnaround has been the captaincy of Faf du Plessis, who has led with the light touch of someone who knows what he’s doing. Now he has the results to prove it.
3. Quitting captains
Not that Du Plessis’ path to the test captaincy was clear at the start of the year. He had been a stand-in for the injured AB de Villiers, who himself had the leadership thrust at him in January when Hashim Amla did the right thing and quit during the test series against England. Then, after Du Plessis’ success in the tests against New Zealand and Australia and the ODIs against the Aussies, De Villiers did the right thing and quit. Big ups to Amla and De Villiers for getting out of the way of progress.
4. Bavuma’s moment
Sometimes the timing and symbolism of an achievement becomes its relevance. Temba Bavuma’s 102 not out in the second test against England at Newlands in January was such a moment. Who remembers that Amla scored 201 in the same innings, that Ben Stokes made 258, or that Bavuma’s half-centuries against Australia in Perth and Hobart in November were better innings and more important in the context of those matches than his Newlands knock? What mattered in Cape Town was that South Africa’s first black African test batsman had scored his first century.
5. Rabada’s baker’s dozen
Kagiso Rabada’s quality is such that he is expected to deliver excellence every time he marks out a run-up. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t notice when he exceeds even his skyscraper standards. Like he did when he took 13/144 – second only to Makhaya Ntini’s 13/132 as the best test figures by a South African – against England in Centurion in January.