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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
South Africa offer mixed bag
By Neil Manthorp
South African cricket journalist at The Oval

Smith celebrates a century in the Lord's Test
Smith's performance closed the door on the Cronje era
Graeme Smith's form, his leadership and the records he and his team set have established an urgently needed new regime in foundations of concrete.

The highest individual score by a South African no longer belongs in the Hansie Cronje era and the team's record total does not belong in the era of the 'greats' from 1970.

South African cricket was in danger of being dragged down by the memories of both. Now they can look forward with pride.

Statistical records aside, the bond amongst Smith's squad was stronger than even the most senior player, Gary Kirsten, could recall during his decade of international cricket.

The common desire to succeed was what persuaded Kirsten to postpone his retirement.

South Africa's lack of depth in the spin department was exposed as clearly as England's

For the immediate future of the SA cricket, away in Pakistan and at home to the West Indies, that is very good news as he provides critical stability at number three.

Progress was made by Andrew Hall who overcame his reputation as a one-day specialist with 16 wickets and a brilliant 99 not out at Headingley that helped win the Test.

He disproved the theory that both he and Jacques Kallis could not play in the same team.

Enormous strides were taken behind the scenes with the development of players for the future.

Fast bowler Monde Zondeki and reserve wicket keeper Thami Tsolekile showed character off the field as well as skill on it when given a chance.

But the middle order is a cause for concern for South Africa.

Boeta Dippenaar again looked fragile under pressure, Neil McKenzie failed to convert solid starts and Jacques Rudolph averaged 14.

The fast bowling resources started thin and dwindled.

Rudolph is bowled offering no stroke at The Oval
Rudolph has plenty to learn about batting in English conditions

Left armer Charl Willoughby disappeared as an international prospect and Dewald Pretorius was again overcome by the big occasion, leaving Makhaya Ntini to bowl himself to a virtual standstill while Shaun Pollock's effectiveness was severely compromised by the flow of runs from the other end.

Paul Adams was ineffective and South Africa's lack of depth in the spin department was exposed as clearly as England's.

Both countries have cause for concern but South Africa's lack of history in the art, and seamer friendly pitches at home, means they are even worse off than England.

Although England played their best cricket of the summer and deserved to level the series, South Africa's unfortunate reputation for 'choking' on the big occasion returned to haunt them.

The series was within their grasp and, at 345-2 with 45 minutes to play on the first day, they seemed unbeatable.

Whether they choked or not isn't the point - they added fuel to fire the reputation that still haunts South African cricketers.

Having lost the last Test in 1994 and 1998 as well, the next tour to England may be even harder to win.





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