Bangladesh and Zimbabwe series was a saving grace for South Africa © Getty Images
Leave out the 2017 Women’s World Cup and there was nothing extraordinary that South Africa produced © Getty Images

They were there. They could see the destination. The shiny, glossy trophy invited them towards it, but South Africa gazed at it for too long that it blinded them and they lost the sight of their dreams. They were there, yet so far.

“We needed some magic, but we didn’t get it today,” said Dane Van Kiekerk, women’s team captain, after losing the humdinger of a semi-final against England in 2017 Women’s World Cup. That, however, has been South Africa’s story thus far. The magic they cast with their hard work remains elusive.

South Africa deserve more. We all know that and we all want that. You feel bad for them when they face your own countrymen. You neither want them to win nor lose. You cannot, yet again, see AB de Villiers and his comrades in tears, can you? But you saw Van Kiekerk being inconsolable this year. You know they deserve more than what they are credited for. You cannot hate them. Try that. Go, challenge your emotions. You just cannot.

2017 was no less than what South Africa are infamous for. They could have achieved more, but…

South Africa grind Sri Lanka to dirt

South Africa had concluded 2016 with a 206-run thrashing over Sri Lanka in the opening Test. They humiliated Sri Lanka further in the second and third Test to whitewash them 3-0 at home. South Africa somehow took a liking to obliterate Sri Lanka. They won the first T20I but lost the remaining two to concede the series 1-2. They, however, emerged prodigious in formats that demand tenacity: they vanquished Sri Lanka in ODIs, winning it 5-0.

Men from Rainbow nation paint victory in New Zealand

South Africa continued their winning spree, equalling their 12-ODI win by trouncing New Zealand by 4 wickets at Seddon Park, Hamilton. Although the party ended and that they lost the second ODI, they went on to win the series 2-3. Before that they had already conquered the only T20I, at Eden Park, Auckland, the very venue where they were left in tears after losing the 2015 World Cup semi-final. The real Test, for that matter, rested in the longest format and thus began the rise of Dean Elgar.

Elgar scored a magnificent 140 in the first innings of the first Test, following it up with a match-saving 89 in the second innings. South Africa drew the match despite conceding a lead in the firstinnings. Rain effected New Zealand’s march.

Keshav Maharaj sniped up 6 for 40 in the second Test to strangle the New Zealanders in the second Test. Chasing an 83-run target was a walk in the park (not at Seddon) for South Africa.

It was ironic that the men from Rainbow nation were rescued by rain in the third Test. They had lost 5 wickets for 89 runs, still trailing New Zealand by 95 runs. They won the series 1-0.

“No Test cricket,” requests ABD

No, ABD was not a part of these series. He had last played Test cricket was in January 2016 against England, and his last three innings had read a hat-trick of zeros. An injury had kept him away since.

A year later ABD spoke about taking a break from Tests. If the New Zealand series was not enough, ABD stretched his break during South Africa’s tour to England. He thought his friend Faf du Plessis was the one to replace him at the helm.

South Africa continue being South Africa in ICC tournament

David Miller and du Plessis were at the same end of the pitch at The Oval. This sums up South Africa’s campaign in the 2017 Champions Trophy.

After winning against Sri Lanka, South Africa lost to Pakistan by 19 runs (DLS method).

They had to win against India to qualify for the next round. ABD and du Plessis both ran themselves out. India chased down 193 in 38 overs. South Africa scripted the same old tale.

South Africa freeze in English weather

Before the Champions Trophy commenced, South Africa had lost an ODI series in England. They resumed the tour with a 1-2 drubbing in T20Is. The captain ABD went back home to continue his break from Test cricket. The result of the first Test was predicted already: South Africa were at the doorstep of defeat at Lord’s.However, they staged a spectacular comeback in the second Test at Trent Bridge: Vernon Philander scored 96 runs and took 5 wickets in the match.

The luck, however, withdrew itself from siding South Africa as they lost the last two Tests, giving away the series 3-1.

South Africa dominate the weakened forces

South Africa’s drought ended when Bangladesh toured their nation for 3 ODIs, 2 Tests and as many T20Is and Zimbabwe for a day-night, four-day Test. South Africa won in all the matches.

Star performers

Dean Elgar finished as the third-highest run-scorer in Tests in 2017. He scored 1,128 runs at 53.71 including 5 hundreds and 4 fifties. Barring the Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, let us not disregard the fact that Elgar played in New Zealand, England, and South Africa — in conditions that favour the seamers.

Kagiso Rabada was the second-highest wicket-taker in Tests in 2017. He scooped 57 wickets at 20.2 comprising three five-wicket hauls. Morne Morkel played two matches lesser than Rabada: he pocketed 39 wickets at 23.02.

T20 plans go flop

The T20 Global League never got going in 2017 as it was postponed just two weeks before the scheduled start. The board reasoned lack of broadcaster or sponsor for the debacle.

Summary

Leave out the 2017 Women’s World Cup and there was nothing extraordinary that South Africa produced. The Champions Trophy, as ABD had highlighted, was their shot to fame, but they failed to proceed beyond group stage. From taking away the coaching wand from Russell Domingo and handing it to Ottis Gibson, nothing went South Africa’s way. They were lucky that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe visited towards the yearend, that it was a saving grace for them. Otherwise, they would have been left yearning for victory ahead of the India series, which will commence from January 5, 2018.