South Africa Bask in Grand Slam Glory

South Africa have finally done it.  Since 1995, when Test Cricket League records began, only Australia have ever lifted the coveted Grand Slam Trophy.  Now, through defeating the Australians 1-0 over an enthralling three-match series, Graeme Smith’s South Africa have secured a clean sweep of series trophies and with it the League’s supreme prize.

Their achievement could hardly be more richly deserved.  After a high-scoring draw in the 1st Test, the Proteas’ chances of attaining the Grand Slam seemed to have evaporated when they ended Day 4 of the 2nd match at 77 for 4 chasing 429 to win.  Earlier, a second double-century in consecutive innings from captain Michael Clarke had boosted the Aussies’ first innings total.  In response, the Proteas could only get within 162 of their rivals, leaving the the hosts to set up an imposing victory target.  At the start of the final day, South African defeat appeared a certainty, but debutant batsman Faf du Plessis refused to bow to the inevitable.  Batting all day for 110 not out, du Plessis guided his team to a draw, with the loss of only four wickets during the three sessions.

When the tourists fell to 75 for 6 on the first day of the final Test match, again the Grand Slam seemed to be drifting inexorably away.  However, du Plessis once more rescued his team, before South Africa’s much-vaunted pace attack destroyed the Australian first innings, with able support from spinner Robin Peterson.  Two magnificent centuries apiece from Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers then set up a towering victory target for Australia.  The Baggy Greens, and Ricky Ponting on his final day of Test cricket, fell 309 runs short, leaving Graeme Smith to collect trophies for both the series and the vanishingly rare Grand Slam.

The win cements South Africa’s dominance at the top of the table, now leading their nearest opponents by two clear series.  Australia drop a place to third, with their old enemies England taking second spot.  England, however, must win in India to maintain their position.

Now that they have ascended to the highest peaks of the game, the challenge for South Africa becomes how long they can stay there.  They are unable to be caught in the Annual Championship and will take over from 2011 winners India come the turn of the year.  Challenges against New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India then await in 2013 – it will be fascinating to see whether this brilliant team can keep a hold of their bulging hoard of hard-won silverware.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Quiet an observation, dont think many SAfricans are aware…..Great team who understand their respective games and in doing so compliment each other to form a wonderfully balanced unit. Honestly cant see them losing the mantle for a long time. Fingers crossed.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Richard on December 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    First time to site and I’d like to make a requiest – what happens if the table is re-calulated to account for home and away series (so instead of having 8 series results per side, there are 16). Might remove some inherent biases caused by home advantage and sides going long periods between home series (or indeed away series).

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comment, Richard. I considered incorporating both home and away series into the system at the outset, but rejected the idea for the following reasons:

      1) I felt it would compromise the ‘purity’ of the system, for want of a better word. In the current system, there is one trophy and one trophy alone for each of the Test match rivalries. The ownership of each trophy is clear cut, and its history is easy to follow. Effectively creating a home and away trophy for each series would have created an undue level of complexity. Approaching a home series, you’d have to mentally skip over the most recent away series in order to work out potential outcomes, and I think this would diminish the sense of context that I wish to promote.

      2) Taking account of both home and away series would in many cases entail the inclusion of series from the distant past, often involving teams with largely different personnel to their present-day incarnations. The current system aims to minimise this discrepancy as far as possible.

      Personally, I feel that the occasional and temporary imbalances inherent in the current system are a worthy price to pay for simplicity and clarity.

      Reply

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