South Africa's celebrated pace attack took a hammering in the first test against Australia and has much to prove in next week's second but batsman Hashim Amla still believes it is the best in the world.
The tourists fielded a four-pronged pace attack in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and debutant Rory Kleinveldt but they conceded centuries to Ed Cowan and Mike Hussey as well as an unbeaten 259 to Australia captain Michael Clarke. Amla, the top ranked batsman in the ICC standings, scored a century in South Africa's first innings as the Proteas took early charge of the match and then played a key role to hold off Australia's fired up quicks and eke out a draw on Tuesday.
"Australia has a good attack, obviously they had home conditions and so on," said the quietly spoken Amla. "In world cricket there are a lot of good attacks. In my opinion, we have the best attack and Australia and England are also up there." South Africa had the Australians on the ropes at 40-3 on day three of the test before Clarke joined Cowan at the crease for a record stand to wrest the momentum back. Bowling coach Allan Donald thought his attack had performed well in parts on a surface that offered little movement.
"I thought we created some chances, I thought we created some chances for long periods," he said on Monday. "We could have had Michael Clarke caught a couple of times with some really good telling deliveries that fell into spaces. "You go through those periods as batsmen, you ride that pressure and I thought that Australia rode that pressure really well and got through those stages."
That said, figures of 1-129 for Steyn, 0-103 for Philander, 3-127 for Morkel and 0-97 for Kleinveldt did not make attractive reading for the South Africans. For Philander it was a first real setback since the late bloomer burst onto the test arena and started his meteoric rise to number two in the world rankings behind Steyn.
"He knew at some stage that he would run into something like this. He is a class bowler," said Donald. "Australia have done their homework pretty well and came out of their crease a little bit more to nullify the lbws.
"You are going to get those days where you are going to have to slog it out, you are going to get those days when you are going to toil for long periods time. "Vernon is the honest businessman, he comes to the party most of the time. That's why you have a group of players, if someone's having a tough time, someone needs to help him out."
South Africa's progress after a dominant day one was halted by the second day being washed out for rain and they also played most of the test with 10 men after JP Duminy, who bowls handy offspin as well as being a solid middle order batsman, ruptured his Achilles in training.
Having lost Duminy for six months, there seems little chance South Africa will leave spinner Imran Tahir out for the test at the Adelaide Oval, that while batter-friendly can deteriorate markedly towards the end of a five-day match. Kleinveldt is almost certain to make way for Tahir after a difficult debut, if nothing else because of the 12 no balls he bowled.
"I think he bowled well in patches, nobody thinks you are going to get an easy ride on your test debut. I think he did okay," said Donald. South Africa, unbeaten in an away series since 2006, are likely to give up the number one test ranking if they lose the series. The second test begins on Nov. 22.