There was a lot that went wrong for South Africa at Perth. Their skipper AB de Villiers continued to remain out of action having been ruled out due to injury. They then lost Dale Steyn midway through the Test owing to a recurrence of his shoulder problem. Hashim Amla, on whom the Proteas were banking heavily in the batting department, totalled a paltry one run across two innings. And yet, South Africa ended up winning the Test by an emphatic margin. The victory was proof of the fact that there is more to South Africa cricket than De Villiers, Steyn and Amla. It was an indication that the future is bright.
The assumption of the next generation beginning to make a mark can be seen as an apt takeaway from the Perth victory. Kagiso Rabada, who has been impressive from the very time he entered international cricket, once again stood up for the team, with an exceptional performance on the final day. His five-for ensured that South Africa did not miss Steyn on the last day. With Steyn very much on his way out, Rabada's success would please South Africa no end. It is not only about the number of wickets, but the manner in which he is picking them, and the circumstances under which they are being claimed that has been impressive.
Vernon Philander, who was chosen ahead of Morne Morkel, also justified his selection with some big wickets at key moments. His second innings fifty was also a significant effort. Philander is no greenhorn himself, but his inconsistency and injuries have kept him out for a while. Among the batsmen, South Africa will be delighted with the efforts of Quinton de Kock, who succeeded in both the innings. The performance was the kind of boost his Test career needed. Dean Elgar came up with an important hundred as well. Speaking of the younger brigade, JP Duminy is no longer one, but his hundred was definitely a rebirth of sorts, of his Test career.
As for Australia, it was their unprecedented first-innings collapse that cost them the Test. At the start of the second day, the Aussies had everything going for them. After having toppled the visitors for 242, they had raced to 167 for 1. At that point, the hosts seemed destined for a big score. Instead, they crumbled to 244 all-out. David Warner's loss for 97 was the big blow. And, while Shaun Marsh also got a half-century, the rest just could not stand up to the South African bowling. Skipper Steven Smith, Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh failed in both innings, and that was a massive blow.
Mitchell Starc's comeback was expected to bolster the Australians in a big way. And, while the left-arm seamer was successful in the first innings, Australia's incredible collapse seemed to have dented him as well. Starc just did not look like the wicket-taking bowler he has proved himself to be. And neither did the others like Josh Hazelwood, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Marsh or Nathan Lyon. While Australia dominated the first day, it was all South Africa afterwards. And, if there was one moment that captured the Proteas' dominance, it was undoubtedly Temba Bavuma's spectacular run out of Warner.
--By A Cricket Analyst