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Tough season ends on bright note
08 May 2006
By: Richard Edmunds

A gruelling home season for South Africa has ended brightly with a 2-0 series win over New Zealand. Although all three matches were fairly evenly matched throughout, the South Africans were able to dominate at just the right time at both Centurion and Johannesburg, and fought bravely when well on the back foot at Cape Town.

The series provided 20 wickets for the hugely in-form Makhaya Ntini, who seems to improve with every single match he plays. The tireless pace bowler has taken 39 wickets since the start of 2006 in just six tests.

But the series highlight in terms of bowling for South Africa may well be Dale Steyn, who showed substantial improvement from his debut series against England in taking 16 wickets and bowling with impressive pace and improving accuracy. He was certainly one of the finds of the series, the other being a batsman who came in to the squad to replace Herschelle Gibbs for the Newlands test. With an average of just over 10 in his test career before this series, Hashim Amla showed his ability at test level with a superb 149 in the second test and an almost as impressive 56 at Johannesburg.

New Zealand on the other hand return home with much fewer positives. Losing Shane Bond on the first day of the warmup game at Benoni was a massive blow, but it was in the batting that New Zealand really disappointed in this series. The new-look top order failed to impress apart from a 50-run stand between Michael Papps and Peter Fulton at Newlands, and collapses became a familiar sight. Once again it looks likely that there will be substantial change before New Zealand's next test, which isn't until New Zealand's home season begins in December.

Although the series was a very even and competitive one, there is a sharp contrast in the moods of the two sides. South Africa gained a morale-boosting 2-0 win after six painful tests against Australia, while New Zealand again come home from South Africa wondering what might have been.

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