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South Africa remain a force to reckon with in world cricket

Updated January 05, 2019

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South Africa have so far dominated Pakistan in the ongoing Test series. — File
South Africa have so far dominated Pakistan in the ongoing Test series. — File

During the ‘Apartheid’ days - right from 1948 when the National Party came into power to its abolition in 1991-92 after the revolutionary leader Mr. Nelson Mandela was released from his 27 years imprisonment over challenging his country’s laws of racial segregation - the South Africans played only against white nations such as England, Australia and New Zealand.

It was unthinkable for them to play cricket at any level with the non-white nations nor with any mixed team of whites, blacks, Asians within the country which is the reason why no black or Asian played for his country of birth here.

The end to Mandela’s freedom struggle and his prison term and his becoming the first black President of the country since 1990 has changed all that and now South Africa - one of the three founding members of the ICC - has black and Asians playing for their team at international level.

Twenty one years of isolation from international cricket after being banned in 1970 for their laws of Apartheid’, South Africa now is considered to be a cricketing force to be reckoned with.

Pity though that greats of the game of this African country such as Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Mike Proctor were not seen enough on the international circuit.

Thankfully now South Africa now not only hosts the non-white nations abut also visits those country’s such as India, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh for Tests and ODIs.

Since 1888-89 when South Africa played its first ever Test against England at Port Elizabeth to now, for them it has been a long journey in which they have reached to a stage where all races are accepted in their fold, be it white, black, Asian or Cape Coloured.

The first black to play for his country was left-arm spinner Omar Henry in 1992 against India at Kingsmead and the rest like Paul Adams, Herschelle Gibbs and Makaya Ntini followed.

Ntini no doubt made his mark as one of the finest fast bowlers for his country, ending his career with 390 Test wickets. Kasigo Rabada another fast bowler of great merit seems to be following in his footsteps, and so is Vernon Philander.

And Tamba Bavuma, who scored 75 while sharing a solid stand of over hundred with his captain Faf Du Plessis for the fifth wicket, is now well established as a middle-order batsman. And not forgetting, of course, the master batsman Hashim Amla whose current form is cause for concern for him and his team.

Pakistan has had a number of visits to this beautiful country where playing facilities are second to none and perhaps better than most that I have visited.

My first look at a South African team was in 1965 when they played Tests in England and lucky to have watched then a century by the left-handed great Graeme Pollock and his fast bowling brother Peter Pollock whose son Shaun Pollock became a record-breaking fast bowler for his country till Dale Steyn took over his 421 wickets tally in the first Test of the series against Pakistan.

In the ongoing Test the second of this three-match series in which Sarfraz Ahmed and his men are struggling to save the series is one of many which spectacular venue has hosted over the years.

The interest and the passion to be in a Test match has seldom ceased as those who love the game keep filtering in to make a sizeable crowd and a disciplined one too who watched their country take a sizeable lead and applaud their captain Du Plessis for his well grafted century as he kept the Pakistan bowlers toiling all day.

With South Africa batting looking healthier than in the first Test and Pakistan not really in control of the situation unless they bat really well in the second innings, the writing is already on the wall.

The wicket I suppose has straightened up and presents a different look. But will Pakistan batsmen show as much grit as the home side to stand up to the challenge and make a fight of it, only time will tell.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2019