The fourth Test at Johannesburg was Vernon Philander’s last affair in white clothes. The mighty warrior from South Africa had been one of the most loved and adored cricketers across the country for more than a decade. He was a master both with the old and new ball – length ball, outswing, inswing, and late swing; all just came out one after another whenever the Proteas needed them. Most of the time, Big Vern came out as the ultimate winners despite the big boys like Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn around. He was the underrated legend among the legends in his team – but always more committed than some of the legends.

Like all great cricketers, Philander wanted to finish his Test career on a winning note in front of his home crowd, but in the end, things did not go the way Big Vern wished for. Life is strange. Not all can have the privilege to taste such sweet moments. Big Vern might not have that slice of luck, but in the end, he would always be remembered as one of the best pace bowlers South Africa have ever produced.

Big Vern’s wish of a dream farewell could have been fulfilled if the South African batting line-up did not display a spineless effort with the bat. In the first Test, their batters and bowlers exhibited a lot of heart and hinted that a new sun of hope was rising above the Mountains of this Rainbow Nation. But suddenly, the victory seemed to be a false dawn. The Proteas unit gave us the impression that there are still of lot of hard work to be done to bring the train back on the right track.

Anrich Nortje remained the only bright spot amid a disastrous display. He bowled with extreme pace and always clocked around 140 km/hour throughout the four Tests.  Not only that, his ability to bowl in long-spells hinted he could exhibit the stamina when the chips are down. Moreover, his temperament with the bat also put some of the top-order batters in shame.  The intent to occupy the crease and solid defence against spin-bowling, only indicated that he is the future package, which South Africa would need.

But they would need more of them to bring back the golden days. The Test temperament is hugely missing. While England showed more patience with the bat under pressure, the South African batters melted easily – the tendency to execute false strokes at a higher rate totally undermined the whole unit. But as a matter of fact, South Africa have a very good if not the best batters around, who could have shined if they displayed a bit more intent – the intent to leave the ball and rotate the strike with composure. These are basics, which at times even the best tend to forget. The South African batters just need to work cash in and work on building up their patience.

Above all, the captain needs to lead from the front. The lean-patch of Faf du Plessis undermined the whole unit more. He seems to be losing his intent and thus, failed to deliver consistently. A third successive Test defeat is not what you expect from a legendary figure like Faf, but it happened, and surely, his time is coming to an end.

In the end, England remain dominant in South Africa, while it was a series to forget for the Rainbow Nation. But this is not the end of the world. All seemed to be a false dawn, but better days might be around the corner. One needs to have patience and faith.

 

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