The Proteas have passed the test of their character and fighting spirit when put under pressure, especially after losing the first Test, coach Mark Boucher said after South Africa sealed an epic 2-1 series win over India in the third Test at Newlands on Friday.
Chasing a testing target of 212, South Africa won by seven wickets thanks to three successive half-century partnerships involving Dean Elgar (30), man of the series Keegan Petersen (82), Rassie van der Dussen (41*) and Temba Bavuma (32*).
Having been beaten so thoroughly by the world’s No 1-ranked side in the first Test at Centurion, it was a remarkable comeback by a team that is still in transition.
“The team showed great character and fight, but that did not surprise me because Dean Elgar is a captain that leads from the front and Temba Bavuma too,” Boucher said after his biggest triumph as coach.
“That fight showed in Dean and Temba’s batting as well, so the guys will certainly follow that. When you have real fighters like that as leaders, then that will probably be the character of the team as well.
“This is a team that is on its own mission and it is a special, driven changeroom to be in. It’s fantastic that the results are starting to come in now. There were lots of ebbs and flows in the last two Tests, but we played those pressure moments pretty well and if we lost a session, we didn’t lose it too badly so we were still in the game.
“We are playing good pressure-cricket at the moment,” Boucher said.
As the new-look Test side’s most notable triumph, the players are going to take away enormous confidence and belief from what is one of the best results for South African cricket since the return from isolation.
“It was a really hard-fought series, and certainly one of the best, top-five, we’ve ever had in South Africa,” Boucher said. “We lost all three tosses and lots of people wrote us off after the first day of the first Test.
“But we need to see this result through the perspective of where this team is and where India, probably the best team in the world, are. Our youngsters will take a lot of confidence from this.
“There’s nothing like winning games when you know you’ve had to play very, very hard Test cricket. But our feet are firmly on the ground and we know we are not the finished product.
“But from where this team has come from, in terms of the on and off-field stuff, they have been through a lot as a unit. But we have had solid chats and we are a close-knit group that has worked very hard,” Boucher said.