SA have be­come for­mi­da­ble road warriors

The re­cent Test strug­gles of Aus­tralia and Eng­land high­light the po­tency of the Proteas, writes ANT SIMS.

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

PART and par­cel of a for­mi­da­ble cricket team is the abil­ity to com­pletely crush op­po­nents on their home turf, where the con­di­tions are dic­tated by them and terms for bat­tle gen­er­ally in­volve nul­li­fy­ing the op­po­si­tion be­cause they’re so un­fa­mil­iar with what they are con­fronted with.

Part of a great, nay, his­toric team is the abil­ity to adapt to con­di­tions away from home and see op­por­tu­ni­ties mul­ti­ply as they are seized.

The hon­our of the long­est un­beaten Test se­ries streak away from home be­longs to the West Indies, of course, who purged and plun­dered from 1980-1995, a dom­i­nant record stretch­ing 15 years.

While it would be grossly naïve and ridicu­lously un­fair to com­pare the Proteas to that dom­i­nant West Indies team of yore, their dom­i­nance away from South Africa is be­com­ing a cru­cial cog in the wheel that will keep their No. 1 rank­ing turn­ing (and earn them a size­able profit come April 1).

Just over a year ago, the Proteas’ home- record was shaky, but they had be­come for­mi­da­ble on the road. They were un­beaten away from South Africa since 2006 and with tours away to New Zealand, Eng­land and Aus­tralia coming up, they had a chance to ex­tend their reper­toire as road warriors. And they did.

New Zealand, Eng­land and Aus­tralia were all dealt with and de­spite some nervy mo­ments, the Proteas emerged victorious in three out of three tours and man­aged to send yet an­other English skip­per into res­ig­na­tion.

It’s an im­pres­sive list of cre­den­tials and the re­cent strug­gles of Aus­tralia in In­dia and Eng­land in New Zealand only high­lights just how in­cred­i­ble that record is.

While the Aussies might be in dis­ar­ray, their in­ep­ti­tude to ad­just to the spin­ning con­di­tions was an abom­i­na­tion. In­dia were ripe for the pick­ing af­ter just suc­cumb­ing to a se­ries de­feat against Eng­land, but Aus­tralia failed to take ad­van­tage and they looked a shadow of the team which would leave ev­ery­one quiv­er­ing in their boots.

Eng­land mean­while sal­vaged a plucky draw in New Zealand, thanks to a mag­nif­i­cent ton by South African Matt Prior, but came ever so close to los­ing to a team who, just a few months ago, were em­bar­rassed by the South Africans and looked like they had plum­meted to cri­sis lev­els.

South Africa have had their strug­gles away from home, they have had those nervy mo­ments, but some­body has al­ways stepped up to help dig them out of their hole and en­chanted cricket lovers with their pres­ence.

Win­ning away from home isn’t sup­posed to be easy. It’s sup­posed to be dogged, cruel, un­for­giv­ing and down­right un­pleas­ant. Yet for al­most seven years, South Africa has man­aged to make it look like a walk in the park. Their prow­ess was high­lighted not only by their ri­vals’ strug­gles, but also by the fact that they re­cently com­pleted their 12 most suc­cess­ful months in cricket.

They have un­earthed some spec­tac­u­lar tal­ent who have all eased into the side and credit- ed the en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by the coaches for their success. That en­vi­ron­ment, of course, con­tains some of the world’s best play­ers who re­move the pres­sure from the young­sters to help them go out and just play their nat­u­ral game. The suc­ces­sion plan, at least in the Test for­mat, seems to be pretty solid.

Their strug­gles in the shorter for­mat of the game re­main and they will have their tran­si­tion plan tested when the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in Eng­land comes knock­ing in June, but it’s the Test for­mat that really mat­ters and a trip to the United Arab Emi­rates later in the year of­fers an­other op­por­tu­nity to prove why they are the best.

A lengthy lay­off from the long­est for­mat of the game will en­sure that the Proteas will have some se­ries pres­sure rid­ing on them.

Af­ter that, just one fi­nal fron­tier re­mains: a con­vinc­ing Test se­ries win in In­dia. But it’s a pity that the Proteas won’t have the chance to make it hap­pen un­til at least 2015.

— Sport24.

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