South Africa had clinched the number one ranking in Test cricket in England last year after beating the host nation quite comfortably in the final Test of the series. They were of course fortunate that Kevin Pietersen who had smashed a terrific century in the previous Test had been dropped by England for disciplinary reasons and so wasn't playing in the final Test.
It made South Africa’s job easier and they went on to win the game, and with it, also grabbed the number one ranking from England. That led to England’s skipper Andrew Strauss deciding to retire from the game altogether. Pietersen is now back in the English team, and with him, England scaled another peak of beating India in India.
Though Pietersen is a South African, the South African team has come on so well, that the ifs and buts about him staying on in South Africa and adding to their strength are hardly talked about with the manner in which the Proteas are beating all comers everywhere.
Like most teams, they are pretty much unbeatable at home, and so they are proving for the Pakistanis. It was expected that the pitches in South Africa would help the Pakistanis who have a pretty good new ball attack, but that has not quite happened, and it is 'the magician' Saeed Ajmal who has been the main worry for the South Africans.
One of the biggest pluses for the Australians and the South Africans has been how their lower order batsmen refuse to give up their wickets and have to be bowled out. That is what happened with Robin Peterson and Vernon Philander who added valuable runs for South Africa after Ajmal had taken the first six wickets for not too many, and their efforts allowed the Proteas to concede just a 12-run lead to the Pakistanis.
Philander and Steyn then struck again with the ball and the Pakistanis collapsed in the second innings leaving the Proteas not too many to chase, which they did, and with it, have not only won the Test series, but have jumped far ahead of the others in the points for the rankings, and look pretty well placed to retain their number one position for another year.
Out in New Zealand, the teams are locked in a good battle with England pulling one back after losing the first one-dayer and that should be an interesting contest.
All eyes in India are on the Test series between India and Australia, and though the buzz is not as much as earlier series, it promises to be a very competitive one. India have a chance to win back their supporters’ faith and Australia will be looking to gear up for the Ashes series later in the year.
Saeed Ajmal, with his superb bowling, is the Ceat International Cricketer of the Week.Professional Management Group