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Ken Borland


Last rites take a while, but the clean sweep is achieved

Posted on February 24, 2013 by Ken

 

The last rites took a while, but the summer of ’13 still ended on the most triumphant of notes for South Africa as they completed an innings-and-18-run victory over Pakistan at Centurion and a 3-0 sweep of the series.

It’s just the third time South Africa have claimed a whitewash in a series of at least three Tests, the other two instances being the great Springbok team of 1969/70 that hammered Australia 4-0 and the impressive 5-0 clobbering of the West Indies in 1998/99, when the tourists had such greats as Brian Lara, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in their ranks.

The Pakistan second innings came to an end just before 5pm on Sunday on 235 all out, the last pair of Rahat Ali and Mohammad Irfan having frustrated the South Africans for 45 minutes.

Pakistan were in a good state at lunch as Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat batted with defiance and positivity to take them to 87 for two, but Dale Steyn and Rory Kleinveldt reduced them to 176 for six by tea.

Steyn finished with four for 80 and Kleinveldt and Abbott took two wickets each. Considering it was a dead rubber game and South Africa were missing two key cogs in Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel, it was an emphatic statement of their intent to truly dominate Test cricket.

“It’s been a very special summer at home and this result is very important. We wanted to step up, we were a bit uncertain about what to do on the first day, but we took on the challenge of batting. It would have been easy to be soft in this Test and not totally commit to the cause, but if you’re 10% off your game at this level, then you’re not going to produce a performance,” captain Graeme Smith said.

“It shows we’re hungry and we have a real pride in our performance. There was maturity and professionalism. We’ve had a few injuries, but to see the new guys come in and step up shows that there’s a good environment and platform for them to perform.”

None more so than Abbott, who owned the third best match figures ever on debut for South Africa of nine for 68. South African cricket’s house is clearly in order on the field considering how well debutants have done recently.

Three of the last four pace bowlers – Vernon Philander and Marchant de Lange being the others – have taken a five-wicket haul in their debut Test, while Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar both have centuries to their name.

Kleinveldt is the odd seamer out, but he bowled well at Centurion and eventually had some reward when he picked up the wickets of Misbah ul-Haq (5) and Asad Shafiq (6) midway through the second session.

Azhar and Farhat had added 54 for the third wicket and South Africa were in need of a breakthrough after lunch.

And it came, as ever, from Steyn, although this time it was a run out.

Farhat had turned left-arm spinner Robin Peterson to fine leg and Azhar was looking for a second run, but was turned back and couldn’t make his ground from just two metres down the pitch as Steyn fired in a superb bullet throw straight over the stumps.

Quite how the lower-order wagged so enthusiastically – Sarfraz Ahmed (40), Saeed Ajmal (31), Ehsan Adil (12) and Rahat (22) didn’t really mind how the runs came – baffled many, but victory was never in doubt.

Pakistan had begun the day on 14 for one and Azhar and Younis Khan survived for the first half-hour, before the opener and Farhat added 48 for the third wicket to take the tourists to lunch and cut the deficit to 166 runs.

The match situation was right down the obdurate Azhar’s alley and the 28-year-old batted for nearly three hours and faced 110 balls in scoring his 27.

Farhat, in contrast, once again looked keen to tee it up and struck five fours in his 43 off 91 deliveries.

Philander and Abbott were both probing, but the pick of the bowlers in the morning was Steyn, who had bowled nine overs for 22 runs and taken both wickets.

He removed Mohammad Hafeez with the first ball of the innings on the second evening and added the scalp of Younis for 11 on Sunday.

Steyn struck with a beautiful late away-swinger, Younis reaching for the ball to try and play it to mid-on, getting the outside edge and sending a comfortable catch to Smith at first slip.

 

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