South Africa’s talent is without question. Whatever you may think of the ICC’s official rankings, it must mean something that Smith, Kallis, Amla and de Villiers are ranked in the world’s top 20.
Ironically, those four batsmen all rate Jacques Rudolph as highly as they might ever accept any judgement of themselves. And none would rate the ability of Ashwell to scrap in difficult circumstances less than their own. So the ability is there. Now is the time to deliver.
Perhaps there is too much talent and ability in the top order – too much to allow them to swallow their pride and work like diamond miners rather than diamond cutters, or sellers. There are 400+ runs in the Kingsmead pitch but they will not come easily. They will need to be earned, often one-at-a-time.
Smith and de Villiers have career strike rates which far outstrip what conditions allow at Kingsmead. Amla has a bizarrely poor record at his home ground and Kallis is gloriously determined to spend the final years of his career scoring at a rate he has always been capable of – but mostly not allowed to because of the fragility of the rest of the middle order.
Now, however, after three seasons without a home Test series victory, it is time to put their own desires and ambitions aside and put in the hard work which, in truth, is ‘beneath’ their talent and ability. It is time to grind. Not pretty, not particularly entertaining, and not likely to win many friends in the short term, but a total of 450 should be good enough to win the Test match – and the series – and that is what will be remembered.
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