Had Faf du Plessis been offered two victories against Australia with just one reply fours weeks ago, he would undoubtedly have asked where must he sign. Such a deal, though, would have robbed the global cricket public of some utterly engrossing memories.
The Proteas claimed the key moments. They won the first pulsating Test at the WACA after being under pressure from the outset and then they crushed their opponents in Hobart. The fact that Australia won here at the Adelaide Oval should not matter a one bit.
Two-one against Australia, in their own backyard, to complete a third successive Test series win Down Under, is the equivalent - if not of higher value - of capturing any major ICC trophy. And we all know the value the South African public attach to ICC silverware.
There will be nay-sayers who will point out that this Australian team is nowhere near as individually brilliant as the legends of the past that analyse their every move from the Channel 9 commentary boxes above. But neither is this South African side, especially after losing the services of De Villiers and Dale Steyn - arguably the world’s best batsman and fast bowler - just one day into this series.
Therein lay the beauty of the Class of 2016. The Proteas’ sum of their parts were collectively stronger than Australia and that is only possible if the culture within the camp is strong.
This team, led intelligently by Du Plessis, have played for each other and the Proteas badge. They represented a united front at all times, not something that could always have been said about previous Proteas teams, and it bore dividends both on and off the field this tour.
“Mission successful. The last four days was not the plan, Australia came back really hard. We came here to win the series and fortunately for us that was in Hobart. It was an incredible series and to do it three times in a row is amazing,” Du Plessis said on Sunday night.
“A lot of questions were asked of us. We lost AB, who is a massive player, and we lost Dale. If you had asked the South African public after losing those two players, they would have said we have no chance to beat Australia.
“To come here, for guys to put up their hand, I said before the series that this would be a great tour for guys to make names for themselves and they did that. The most pleasing thing was that everyone in the batting line-up put their hand up on a different occasion. We didn’t rely on an individual. And our whole bowling line-up performed to their full potential.”
The bare numbers of the series certainly endorse Du Plessis’s claim. Only two members of the batting unit - Quinton de Kock and the captain himself - averaged over 50 with a host of players hovering between 36.80 and 27.20 - while the pace trio Kagiso Rabada (15), Kyle Abbott (13) and Man of the Series Vernon Philander (12) also distributed the Australian wickets evenly among themselves.
While it was satisfying to see so many players assume responsibility, it also indicates that this group have not reached its full potential yet and could be targeting Sri Lanka during the home Test summer to really put their foot down.
“We are still very eager to learn, and to improve, and that goes for the guys sitting on the side and myself. The great thing about our squad is that guys want to do that. They don’t see themselves at the finished article. That is good sign for a team,” Du Plessis explained.
“Sri Lanka is the next mission. We really looking forward to a home series, it is something we really enjoy. We don’t play a lot of Test cricket at home, so I am really excited for the start of that series.”
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Original source: PICS: Proteas in a class of their own