Friday was a great day for the Proteas in Australia, neatly silencing all the negativity that was flying about just a day earlier, but it proved yet again just how quickly fortunes can change in top-level cricket.
It was four years ago in Perth that South Africa clinched their most recent series win over Australia, in a match that started in similar fashion with the Proteas bowled out cheaply on the first day, but by the end of an astonishing second day, they led by 292 runs with eight second-innings wickets intact.
Hashim Amla (he was dismissed for just a single on Friday following a duck on the first day) scored a magnificent 196 in 2012/13 and AB de Villiers scored a great 169 as South Africa went on to win by 309 runs.
Our cricket was in good shape back then as we were ranked number one in the world, and we’re not looking bad now either, but it got me thinking about how South Africa’s Test team would look in another four years time, in November 2020 through to January 2021 when a four-Test series is scheduled in Australia.
The fifth round of the Sunfoil Series was also entering its second day on Friday and the four-day domestic competition is obviously where one looks for an idea of what our Test side could look like when we next play the premier form of the game in Australia.
The naysayers and prophets of doom, who are mostly just anti-transformation, will try and con you into thinking the well of talent is being siphoned off overseas, but the first half of the Sunfoil Series has been full of memorable individual performances that are very exciting for the future.
It’s always fun during sleepy moments in play to pick fantasy XIs and this week I chose my Proteas Test squad for that 2020/21 trip to Australia.
Aiden Markram has steadily progressed from playing for a smaller cricketing school (Cornwall Hill College) to Pretoria Boys’ High, SA U19 captain, Northerns and is now plundering runs for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series, and I expect his progression will continue through into the Proteas team.
Opening the batting with him will either be the senior pro Dean Elgar, who will be 33, or Reeza Hendricks, who has come from Kimberley through the Knights to the big city of Joburg and the Highveld Lions.
Theunis de Bruyn was a University of Pretoria team-mate of Markram’s but is now playing for the Knights and accumulating runs with the sort of unflustered calm that makes it look like he’s playing village cricket; I would bet on him being the Proteas number three by 2020.
Temba Bavuma has just added more lustre to his reputation with his dogged half-century on the first day in Perth and, by the next Test series Down Under, I expect him to have even more responsibility as South Africa’s number four and the fulcrum of their batting.
Quinton de Kock was similarly brilliant and whether he goes all the way up the order to open in Tests will depend on whether another wicketkeeper/batsman comes through (Heinrich Klaasen/Clyde Fortuin?), but I’m sure he’s going to be batting in the top six by 2020 and scoring mountains of runs.
It’s going to be interesting to see whether Rilee Rossouw builds on his start in international cricket and becomes a Test regular, while David Miller is potentially going to push him hard judging by his form in this season’s Sunfoil Series.
Jacques Kallis was a massive part of the Proteas being number one in the world with his all-round ability and a position that was a problem once he retired should be well-stocked by 2020.
Was there ever a better start to a first-class career by someone so young as Wiaan Mulder made for the Lions? At just 18 years old he has already scored a century and taken seven wickets in an innings in A Section cricket. Clive Rice was a great Transvaal and Nottinghamshire all-rounder but he had to wait six years for his maiden first-class century and seven before he first took seven in an innings.
Andile Phehlukwayo was a revelation in the ODI series against Australia and will surely be waving for attention as well; Jason Smith has caught the eye for the Cape Cobras as their season goes down the tubes, while the likes of Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius might not be ready to say goodbye to international cricket just yet either.
Kagiso Rabada will surely be the spearhead of the South African attack, while Keshav Maharaj fronted up well enough on Test debut to suggest he will certainly be in the picture in 2020, along with fellow spinners Tabraiz Shamsi, Dane Piedt and Eddie Leie.
Who of Marchant de Lange, Hardus Viljoen, Duanne Olivier or Wayne Parnell will share the new ball with Rabada, while Lungi Ngidi has impressed with his bounce and accuracy in his first campaign with the Titans.