The South Africa cricket team are known as the Proteas, after their national flower. They were one of the first teams to be granted Test status, which was given to them in 1889, and they are also a fully-fledged member of the ICC. Regularly ranked as one of the best teams in the world, South Africa have been ranked as the world number 1 for Tests, ODIs and T20s on several occasions. They also have some big International tournament victories to their name, although they have never won an ICC World Cup or an ICC World Twenty20, and many have pointed-out that a team of their standing, a team with their history and with their ability, really should have more trophies.
South Africa have a long history in the game, but there have been a few blips. They played their first Test match against England at the end of the 19th century and they had some successful tours into the 20th century. In the 1970s, the apartheid in South Africa meant that they refused to play against predominantly black nations and only really played against England, New Zealand and Australia. Because of this, the ICC suspended them. This was a fair suspension considering they were essentially trying to impose racism on the game, but it meant that some of their best ever players, including Graeme Pollock, missed out on many big tournaments.
There are a few names that consistently crop-up on all-time South Africa Best Elevens, players that have made their mark on the record books and have gone down in local folklore. These include the likes of Barry Richards, who inspired one of the many golden ages of South African cricket and was something special when he was at bat. Another great batsman, and a solid all-rounder, is Jacques Kallis, a player who has made more of an impact on the record books than many of his fellow countrymen. Kallis is considered to be one of the best batsman that South Africa have ever produced, and it is no coincidence that some of South Africa’s best performances and their best best years were recorded when he was at the peak of his career.
Making his mark some years before Kallis, Graeme Pollock is one of the several South African legends who would also make his way onto many global Best Elevens, a player who, in his prime, could have made it into any team, including many of the great unstoppables produced by the likes of Australia and the West Indies. In fact, when he finished his career his batting average was second only to Don Bradman, who played a starring role in one of the golden ages of Australian cricket.
As well as being named by many as the best South African to ever play the game, Graeme Pollock also inspired many others to follow in his footsteps and is therefore indirectly responsible for many modern greats.
Other old-school legends of South African cricket include Mike Procter, Johnny Waite and Dudley Nourse, but there is a long-list of stars batsman and bowlers who have helped to lead their country to great success over their 100+ year history.
South Africa were not a member of the ICC between 1975 — when the first ICC World Cup was held — and 1987, so they missed all of the tournaments hosted between these dates and their first World Cup was not until 1992. During this competition they advanced all of the way to the semi-final, finishing ahead of Australia, West Indies and Pakistan in their group (with both the Aussies and Windies failing to qualify), before losing narrowly to England.
After a quarter-final finish in the following World Cup, South Africa repeated their performance in 1999, only to lose to Australia. They made it to the semi-finals again in 2015, losing to New Zealand. South Africa have also made it to the ICC World Twenty20 on two separate occasions, losing in both, but they had a little more success in the ICC Champions Trophy.
During the first ICC KnockOut Trophy, which was hosted by Bangladesh, South Africa overcame a tough run-in, beating England, Sri Lanka and the West Indies to claim their first major title. This success was not repeated, despite their appearance at the next 6 finals. Once again the semi-finals became their curse and despite making it this far on four separate occasions, they didn’t advance any further and were beaten by the West Indies, England and twice by India. On only one occasion did one of these teams go on to win the event.
1998 was one of South Africa’s better years, because as well as being the year that they claimed victory in the ICC Champions trophy, it was also the year they won Commonwealth gold, although they did lose a Test series to both England and Australia in the same year. South Africa are usually prolific when it comes to test matches though and throughout 2015 they ranked 1st in the overall Test rankings. This as a result of multiple wins against the West Indies, as well as New Zealand and India.