Kirsten savours special triumph
South Africa coach Gary Kirsten reflected on a “very special” victory after his side produced a dominant performance to defeat England by an innings and 12 runs in the first Investec Test at the Kia Oval.
The Proteas claimed their hosts’ final six second-innings wickets today, rounding off an emphatic display which saw them twice bowl out England either side of posting 637 for two declared with the bat.
Kirsten’s men are now 1-0 up in the three-match series with two to play and have significantly boosted their chances of claiming England’s number-one Test ranking.
After the game, the former opening batsman was asked how much satisfaction he gained from seeing South Africa triumph while only losing two wickets in the game.
“It’s very special,” he replied. “Those kind of things don’t happen very often, but we’ve got some real class in our batting line-up, guys with a lot of experience and guys who enjoy batting a lot.
“They don’t give their wickets away; they take pride in spending a lot of time at the crease. It was particularly satisfying as a coach to watch that batting performance.
“We know we’re capable of that. It’s not going to happen all the time that you only lose two wickets but we’ve got a strong batting line-up that can get big scores.”
While the tourists’ performance with the bat – and Hashim Amla’s remarkable triple hundred, the first in Test cricket by a South African – will live long in the memory, credit also went to the bowling attack that claimed 20 wickets on a placid pitch.
All-rounder Jacques Kallis, who claimed two scalps in the first innings before compiling 182 not out, said: “It was an incredible performance today. Even taking those four wickets yesterday we knew it was going to be hard.
“It is a lot easier to bowl when the batting side is under pressure but the way the guys went about it, creating chances, asking questions - there were no easy runs available.”
Referring to South Africa’s fightback on day two, which saw them reduce England from 267 for three to 385 all out, Kallis added: “We found a bit of swing with the overhead conditions but you’ve still got to use those conditions and I thought we did it really well.
“We put England under a lot of pressure. The momentum started going for us and we’re the kind of side that once we get the momentum we seem to play really good cricket.”
Kallis admitted he was privileged to have been at the crease later in the match when the relentless Amla made history by passing 300.
“For most of his innings I had probably the best seat in the house. It was a very special moment,” added the 36-year-old.
“To see him go about his business was a treat. He brings a lot of calmness to the side and it’s a pleasure to bat with a guy like that.”
Kallis also elaborated on the celebration that followed his own milestone; upon reaching his 43rd Test century, the veteran removed his helmet and pointed to his eye – a tribute to former team-mate Mark Boucher.
South Africa’s first-choice wicketkeeper was forced to retire from international cricket after being struck in the eye by a flying bail during the tour-opening match at Taunton.
“It’s sad what happened to Mark. To have his career end like that is unfair,” said Kallis.
“It was just my way of letting him know that he’s still very much in our thoughts. It’s sad to see a mate go out like that.”
Kirsten confirmed AB de Villiers will once again keep wicket in the second Test at Headingley Carnegie, even though Thami Tsolekile has joined the squad as a replacement for Boucher.