It’s officially the end of an era. With the retirements of Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla, all members of the South African side who scripted that famous series victory Down Under against Australia in 2008 have called it a day.
That Proteas team was also the first one since readmission to beat Australia in Australia, and they didn’t lose a single away test series between 2007 and 2015- quite an amazing statistic given the variety of conditions that prevail in test cricket today. Amla and Steyn were both key members of that squad as was AB de Villiers, who also hung up his international boots last year. Interestingly, the trio were the 295th, 296th and 297th players for South Africa and made their debuts in the same year- will the Proteas ever have a more impactful troika of players in the future?
An amazing journey for Hashim Amla
Amla’s unorthodox technique had its fair share of critics and his weakness against the short ball initially didn’t help him either. But he fought through it and finished with 9282 runs from 124 tests at an average of 46.41. In 2012, his innings of 311 against England at The Oval made him the first, and till date, the only South African to score a test triple century.
A majority of South Africa’s success in that period between 2007 and 2015 was down to the quartet of Graeme Smith, Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. They were all world class players, capable of winning in any conditions, be it swinging, bouncy or even spinning ones.
Amla was also the first non-white player to captain South Africa in test cricket. In many ways, he was a trend setter and the journey for the likes of Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and co. has been made easier by his phenomenal success.
Excellent ODI record
As good as he was in tests, Amla had a even better record in ODI’s becoming the fastest to reach 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 and 7000 runs respectively. He finished with an average of close to 50 and over 8000 ODI runs. Like many South African greats however, he could not win a World Cup.
Amla remains an all-time great, but he would’ve finished with an average of over 50 in both formats had he retired a couple of years ago. Age and the addition of glasses didn’t quite help his cause- it never does in a sport that relies so much on hand eye co-ordination.
Steyn to continue in shorter formats
Steyn though will continue to represent South Africa in the shorter formats. The Phalaborwa Express was effectively injury-free in that period of domination for the Proteas- a rare sight for a fast bowler today given their workloads, and will go down in many people’s eyes as the greatest pacer of his generation.
Steyn’s hopes of one last hurrah at the World Cup was dashed by an injury he picked up at the IPL while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore. He remains a very decent T20 bowler, and it’s perhaps the format where we’ll see more of him in the future.
Highest wicket taker for SA in tests
Steyn finished as South Africa’s highest wicket taker in tests- with 439 from just 93 test matches at an average of 22.9 and a strike rate of 42.4. Be it Melbourne, Nagpur, the Wanderers or the Oval, he found ways to make the ball talk, and to great effect, picking 5fers that struck fear into the minds of opposition batsmen.
He forged deadly combinations, first with the likes of Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock and later with Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. The Proteas pace attack could run through batting lineups at will and combined with the strength of their top six, made them an all time great test side.
Steyn and Amla, as mentioned above, were part of a South African team which were a dominant force all over the world in test cricket. Keeping in mind the quality of the duo, finding replacements to fill their boots will be a herculean task for the folks at CSA.
Go well Dale, go well Hash! And thanks for the memories!
(Article contributed by Rajeev Viswanathan, edited by TCB Staff)