South Africa in 2005

After a brief period of misguided drifting post-Cronjegate, the South Africans, hardened by tough series in 2005, appear to be back on track. The derailment – which stemmed from the chaos and uncertainty of the infant years of the new millennium – has been repaired by the blossoming of several younger faces.

2005 began with what would seem to be the drawn-out dregs of England’s tour, but the seven-match ODI series supplied some entertaining, occasionally explosive, cricket. Kevin Pietersen, loathed by the Springbok’s fans for his desertion to England, serenaded his own arrival by striking three hundreds, but a rebuilding South African batting line-up proved far more consistent. Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, enjoying a new position in the middle order, struck over 300 runs each, while the bowlers continued to develop as a unit.

Zimbabwe’s tour in February and March was almost tear-jerking. The tourists, although reinforced by Heath Streak, were soundly beaten in the one-dayers, but the Tests contained some of the sorriest drubbings in cricket history. Jaques Kallis pillaged the fastest ever Test fifty at Cape Town, off 24 balls, a record to be embarrassingly camouflaged into the archives. The South Africans profited little from the series; the opposition was of such a low standard that neither runs nor wickets were a reliable indicator.

A trip to the West Indies appeared a much more attractive proposition. Despite a heavily weakened team, the West Indies dominated the drawn First Test in Guyana, before a replenished home side crashed paradoxically to defeat in Trinidad. The Proteas eventually ran out 2-0 winners, with the final Test played on a farcically placid track in Antigua. AB de Villiers, an enterprising opener, confirmed his international potential, making 460 runs (he would make 987 at just under 52 in 2005), whilst Smith massacred the West Indian attack to compile 505 at 98. Boeta Dippenaar also impressed, particularly in the ODIs, where the tourists claimed a 5-0 whitewash. Andre Nel and Charl Langeveldt also began to fulfil their support role to Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock.

A lengthy lay-off followed before the South Africans took on the visiting Kiwis in October, on a tour consisting solely of ODIs. Once more, they proved too strong, taking the five match series by a margin of four games to nil, although, save the fast bowlers, there were few outstanding performances.

India beckoned, once again for an exclusively one-day tour. With Gibbs and spinner Nicky Boje refusing to tour unless they were assured by local police that they would not be arrested for match-fixing allegation (a brutal reminder of the saga of recent years), a harsh tour loomed. But the Springboks defied all expectations, drawing the series 2-2, with Smith and Jaques Kallis providing the runs and the pace battery the wickets.

Test Player of the Year 2005: AB de Villiers
ODI Player of the Year 2005: Graeme Smith
One to Watch in 2006: Justin Kemp

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