<
>

De Kock goes top, Cook hits rock bottom

Faf du Plessis showed good consistency in the series, but could not kick on to a big score Getty Images

9

Quinton de Kock
Three matches, 210 runs at 52.50, two fifties, 13 catches, two stumpings

Quinton de Kock completed his most successful period in international cricket this summer, scoring vital runs and establishing himself as indispensable to the South African side in all formats. His positive approach to batting did not change even when the pressure was on, and he continued to fulfil his potential to change the course of a match single-handedly and quickly. He saved face for South Africa twice, in Wellington and Hamilton, where he was carrying a finger-tendon injury that ruled him out of the IPL. He seemed destined for centuries on both occasions and although he didn't get there, his runs added the most value to South Africa; no wonder he ends the season as their highest ranking Test batsman at No. 6. Also, de Kock's glovework has reached a new dimension, as his one-handed grabs to dismiss Neil Broom in Wellington both times showed.

Morne Morkel
Three matches, 11 wickets at 26.72, 49 runs at 49.00

After 14 months out of Test cricket with a career-threatening back injury, Morne Morkel made a stirring comeback and bowled with aggression and accuracy to lead South Africa's attack. Morkel impressed with his natural ability to generate bounce, his pace - which remained consistently in the 140s - and his ability to adjust his lengths to the demands of New Zealand surfaces. He was able to get it a bit fuller than usual and proved particularly troublesome for Tom Latham, whom he dismissed three times in five innings.

8

Keshav Maharaj
Three matches, 15 wickers at 19.93

Seldom is South Africa's highest wicket-taker in a series a spinner, which made Keshav Maharaj an unlikely hero. Being a self-confessed "bowler of minimal variation", Maharaj's success was built on discipline, clever creation of angles at the crease and tirelessly keeping up one end - twice for entire sessions - to allow the three seamers to rotate from the other. He took back-to-back five-fors in Dunedin and Wellington - the first South African spinner to do that since Paul Adams - where he was able to sustain and benefit from the the pressure created by the seamers. He was particularly successful against Jeet Raval, whom he dismissed three times in the first three innings.

7

Faf du Plessis
Three matches, 198 runs at 66.00, three fifties

A seemingly quiet but ultimately hugely successful series for Faf du Plessis, who led the way in terms of consistency with three fifties. His first in Dunedin was vital to getting South Africa out of a near-crisis at 22 for 3, while his second could well have dictated the course of the match had rain not washed out the fifth day. In Hamilton, he was also a source of steadiness after some early wobbles and was gearing up for the ultimate blockathon on the final day, but did not get the chance to show it off. Du Plessis will be the first to admit his lack of conversion was part of the problem in the top six but he has also grown as a leader. He managed his attack well, took some excellent catches - such as the one to dismiss James Neesham in Wellington - and conducted himself with the right mix of passion and humility to ensure the series was played in good spirit.

Temba Bavuma
Three matches, 189 runs at 37.80, two fifties

Having come into this series under pressure, Temba Bavuma proved that worth cannot always be measured in numbers. He provided runs when South Africa needed them most in the first two Tests. He shared in a 104-run fifth-wicket stand with Dean Elgar in Dunedin to build from 22 for 3 and then partnered Quinton de Kock in a match-wining stand of 160 for the seventh wicket in Wellington. Although he will be disappointed not to have added to his single century in Test cricket so far, he has definitely done enough to keep his middle-order spot even if AB de Villiers returns from a Test hiatus.

6.5

Vernon Philander
Three matches, two wickets at 101.50, 70 runs at 35.00

The wickets column suggests this was an under-par performance from Philander, but he bowled with quality and created pressure. New Zealand were wary of his ability on pitches which offered the quicks help, and took grass off as a result. Philander beat the bat too many times to count and had the lowest economy rate in the South African attack, conceding 2.33 runs an over. Russell Domingo hailed him as the bowler South Africa missed most when he was injured because of his ability to dry up an end.

6

Dean Elgar
Three matches, 265 runs at 44.16, one hundred, one fifty

As someone who has based his batting on hard graft, Dean Elgar relished the challenge of a defiant Dunedin strip, which lacked pace and bounce and made run-scoring a grind. He rescued South Africa twice, from 22 for 3 in the first innings and 39 for 2 in the second, and scored a hundred and a fifty in that match. But only 36 runs came in the next four innings so Elgar did not manage to achieve South Africa's aim that a batsman who gets one century in a series should double-up. Nonetheless, he underlined his role as the senior opener.

Kagiso Rabada
Three matches, eight wickets at 38.87

The effects of a long season seemed to take its toll on Kagiso Rabada, who stepped out of the limelight in this series. After opening the bowling in Dunedin, he was moved to first-change for the next two matches and appeared to take to it well, claiming the prized scalp of Kane Williamson and setting up Neil Broom to fall for a duck on debut in the first innings in Wellington, but then his performances seemed to stagnate. Rabada bowled at good pace across the three Tests, used his short ball to good effect and picked up four wickets in Hamilton, where his stamina was truly tested. South Africa were in the field for 162 overs and the quicks had to return for sixth and seventh spells, a situation Rabada has seldom been in, but he did not fade.

5

Hashim Amla
Three matches, 153 runs at 30.60, one fifty

Although better than the Australia series in which he failed to get a fifty, Hashim Amla did not look entirely convincing in this series. He got better as it went on, scoring his only fifty in Hamilton, where South Africa found themselves 5 for 2. Problems with his footwork, his fishing outside off and even his concentration might lead to whispers about whether he is on the wane but South Africa still rely on his seniority too much to entertain that possibility.

3

JP Duminy
Three matches, 104 runs at 20.80, four wickets at 26.75

Patience must be running out with JP Duminy's inconsistency, especially as he now occupies the crucial No. 4 spot in the line-up. Old problems against the short ball re-emerged as he was bounced out in Dunedin and Hamilton, and he also displayed poor shot selection (Wellington, first innings) and judgement (Hamilton, second innings). Only one of Duminy's scores was over 20 and, although he contributed four wickets in Wellington to unexpectedly express credientials as an allrounder again, his lack of runs must be a big concern. Duminy is feeling the heat and pulled out of the IPL to give himself a mental refresher ahead of South Africa's tour to England. Unless he contributes in a big way there, his days in Test cricket could be numbered.

2

Theunis de Bruyn
One match, 12 runs at 6.00

Brought in to open the batting in the final Test, Theunis de Bruyn had a forgettable start to his international career. He was dismissed for a third-ball duck in the first innings in Hamilton, playing away from his body, and was the involved in a messy run-out in the second, when he was slow to respond to Hashim Amla's request for a quick single and collided with his senior while ball-watching. Amla made his ground and de Bruyn had to be sacrificed. Still, we are sure to see more of him in the future.

0

Stephen Cook
Two matches, 17 runs at 4.25

Another poor start to an away tour cost Stephen Cook his place in his the starting XI in the final Test. Cook looked shaky outside the off stump and fell to an inswinger from Trent Boult twice in Dunedin and the away-swing of Tim Southee twice in Wellington. With South Africa's top six struggling, someone had to make way. With no first-class cricket between now and South Africa's next Test assignment in England, Cook's future is uncertain.