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Fri Apr 18 00:15:19 SAST 2014

Three of the best for Proteas

TELFORD VICE in Johannesburg | 05 February, 2013 06:380 Comments
1st Test: South Africa v Pakistan, Day 4
AB de Villiers of South Africa dives with Graeme Smith looking on during day four of the first Test against Pakistan at Wanderers Stadium on February 04, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Image by: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

HOWEVER many more times they find themselves in the limelight, Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith will remember the first Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers forever - but for different reasons.

That the Proteas won by 211 runs with more than a day to spare yesterday was almost incidental to the major milestones reached by the three stars.

Steyn reached his zenith with a masterful display of swing bowling in the red zone of the speedometer.

He took 6/8 in a first innings in which he was close to unplayable and followed that with a haul of 5/52 yesterday that saw him stay lethal for an unbroken spell of 10.4 overs in which he claimed 4/26.

That gave him a career-best match analysis of 11/60.

"The ball came out sweetly - there's not much more you can say when you take 11 wickets," Steyn said.

But even the world's top-ranked Test bowler could find room for improvement: "At one stage, I went past the edge four times in one over - I just couldn't find the edge."

Did Smith think of trying to tell Steyn to take a break?

"I left it in his hands the whole time," Smith said. "I thought it would be a bit dangerous for me to make that move."

De Villiers became the first wicketkeeper in Test history to take 10 catches and score a century - 103 not out in the second innings - in a match.

Regulation though most of those were - the exceptions were his dive in front of first slip to remove Sarfraz Ahmed and a neat leg-side take to send Mohammad Hafeez packing - this was a polished performance. Importantly, he did not drop any chances.

"I am getting better at it," De Villiers said. "I'm still not where I want to be but it's nice to see some rewards."

De Villiers has quelled the argument about whether he is an adequate replacement for Mark Boucher. In this form, and if his troublesome back stays "100%", as he described it yesterday, he is.

"His keeping has been outstanding and he's getting better and better," Smith said. "The space that he is catching balls in is growing and growing."

The match made Smith the first player to captain a Test team 100 times. "My emotions were at an all-time high. I remember sitting here as a youngster watching the [SA] team play. So this week will go down as something I will remember for the rest of my life," he said.

South Africa, the world's No 1 team, can lay claim to the world's No1 batsman Hashim Amla, the No 1 bowler Steyn and the No 1 all-rounder Jacques Kallis.

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Three of the best for Proteas

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