Justin personifies winning spirit

The performance of Justin Kemp in his maiden Test may have been gloriously over shadowed by the batting of Shaun Pollock and Neil McKenzie but he, perhaps, best summed up what has happened to the national side in the last 12 months.

Everything he did displayed the confidence that cricketers automatically gain when they join a winning team. For so many years South Africa would field debutants who were scared of making a mistake, scared of letting the team and the senior players down by doing something wrong.

The team has had a winning culture in one day cricket for much longer than they have in Test matches but now that same, infectious belief in themselves has spread to the highest level.

Kemp stood at slip and looked the part for every minute he was there, believing he would catch anything that came his way. In the past it was unusual for South Africa to field youngsters in ‘prominent’ positions and to be fair, the youngsters were simply happy to stand at mid on for much of their timeless chance of making a mistake.

Not now. Kemp, like Boeta Dippenaar and Neil McKenzie have seized the initiative in their first few appearances and have grown and thrived on the confidence that comes from having ‘dependable fixtures’ like Kirsten and Cullinan in the side and match winners Kallis, Boucher, Boje and Pollock. Oh, and Klusener…!

The results of South Africa’s last 18 Tests, played over the last 16 months, make fascinating reading. Seven have been won by an innings and only two have been lost. It might have been just one if the last Test against England, at Centurion, had been allowed to reach a natural conclusion.

In fact, there might have been more wins in the weather hadn’t intervened.

Last 18 Tests:

vs Zim (Bloem) – WON by an innings and 13 runs
vs Zim (Harare) – WON by an innings and 219 runs
vs Eng (Jo’burg) – WON by an innings and 21 runs
vs Eng (PE) – draw (Atherton century – fair draw)
vs Eng (Durban) – draw (Kirsten 275 – good save!)
vs Eng (CT) – WON by an innings and 37 runs
vs Eng (Cent) – LOST by 2 wickets (!!)
vs India (Bombay) – WON by 4 wickets
vs India (Bangalore) – WON by an innings and 71 runs

vs Sri Lanka (Galle) – LOST by an innings and 15 runs (the only genuine thrashing)
vs Sri Lanka (Kandy) – WON by seven runs
vs Sri Lanka (Colombo) – draw (rain – could have gone either way but fancy SA)
vs New Zealand (Bloem) – WON by 5 wickets
vs New Zealand (PE) – WON by 7 wickets
vs New Zealand (Jo’burg) – draw (3 days of rain!)
vs Sri Lanka (Durban) – draw (almost certain SA victory but for rain)
vs Sri Lanka (CT) – WON by an innings and 229 runs
vs Sri Lanka (Cent) – WON by an innings and 7 runs

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