Tag Archives: south africa

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Came to the realisation last night that Michael Clarke is going to be a very good captain; his innings so far has endured some fearsome spells of bowling from Dale Steyn and, apart from Shaun Marsh, teammates unable to cope with the conditions. It’s the kind of back to the wall innings that is needed out of a leader and Clarke well and truly led from the front last night.

Clarke has already shown that he is determined to put his own mark on the side demonstrating a thinking outside of the box mentality with field placements and bowling changes in Sri Lanka; never willing to let the game drift and never afraid to try something different; Mike Hussey with 2 wickets in the test series an indication of the New South Welshman’s ability to ring changes that many would not consider.

His batting has also shifted from the disappointment of the previous 12 months. His second inning 60 off 80 balls, on a turner in Galle, put the match out of Sri Lanka’s grasp and was a considerable chunk of Australia’s final total of just 210. His 3rd test knock of 112, on the fifth day, ensured a draw, and series win, but was compiled on a deck that was more reminiscent of a 2nd or 3rd day pitch as opposed to a final day deck.

But last night’s effort cannot be dismissed so easily; a brutal over from Steyn early on and a mid pitch exchange demonstrated the South Africans eagerness to get under the new captains skin. But Clarke was not flustered, the introduction of Kallis allowed Clarke to get moving; driving the all rounder through the covers frequently and also prepared to go square when the ball was short of a length.

His century came off just 108 balls; his skill level and execution were streets ahead of anyone else in the order; the final move now for Clarke is to reclaim his number 4 position in the order. Ricky Ponting is starting to look all of his 36 years of age; a late moving Steyn full ball his downfall last night; but Clarke must now assume the responsibility of rebuilding an innings with his side only 1 or 2 wickets down. The time has come for Ponting to either slide down to 5 or 6 in the order.

Regardless of batting positions and future line-ups; Clarke’s effort, against a world class bowler in Steyn and an environment conducive to the paceman, was pure class.  Michael Clarke is going to be a very good test captain, displaying an unconventional streak in regards to tactics and providing a fresh approach when dealing with the player group; a valuable commodity in a team that is set to lose experienced players in the coming seasons.

The King is dead, long live the King!


Allan Donald….. He was good! 2nd Test Sydney 1994

At work yesterday thinking about the first test, starting in South Africa today, got me reminiscing about memorable South Africa v Australia match ups in my lifetime. Those two see saw matches in the World Cup that saw Steve Waugh lifted to deity like proportions in this country (he didn’t really tell Gibbs that he dropped the World Cup- makes for a good story though!), Warnie giving opener, and by all accounts Mr nice guy, Andrew Hudson the mother of all send offs in 1994 at Johannesburg and the personal highlight of seeing Allan Donald bowl in a tour match in Devonport, Tasmania.

But the game, and memory, that image that kept coming back into my head, was that of  Donald, both arms held aloft, when he dismissed Damien Martyn in the 2nd test at the Sydney cricket Ground 1994. A game that was decided by just 5 runs and has gone down as one of the greatest test matches in my lifetime.

The defining image. Donald dismisses Damien Martyn and Aussie hopes fade

In a pre internet/pay tv era my only glimpse of the South Africans had been their involvement in the one day World Cup two years earlier in Australia.  They had some impressive moments throughout that tournament and so I had some idea of what was to be expected when they arrived in Australia for a three test series in 1993/94. Rain had ensured that the 1st test in Melbourne ended in a draw and so both teams headed to Sydney hopeful of taking a series lead.

And it all went to script for a heavily favoured Australian team, South Africa were rolled for just 169 batting first; Warne was on the rise at this stage of his career and the seven wickets in the innings provided an exhibition in quality spin bowling. Kirsten, Rhodes and his old mate Cullinan were all undone by the flipper.  Matthews, Richardson and Symcox victims of classic leg spinning deliveries, the Symcox dismissal was vintage Warne; around the wicket to the right hander, obviously attempting to bowl the batsman around his legs, the ball drifted slightly further to leg before spitting off the pitch and glancing leg stump. Symcox did his best Mike Gatting face as he found it difficult to believe that he could be bowled from a ball pitching that far outside leg.

Australia then scraped together a lead of 123 runs; Michael Slater, his career still in its formative stages, was dismissed, in what was to become an all to common occurrence, just short of his century; 92 the top score for both sides in the match.  Runs also came from a young Damien Martyn and Captain Allan Border as they helped give the Australians a decent buffer, but it was hard work; Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers both took 4 wickets and the run rate of 2.02 throughout the innings shows how difficult the pitch was playing.

It was the Warne show once again in the 2nd innings as he took 5 more wickets but for me the memory that sticks in my mind from that innings was watching Jonty Rhodes play Shane Warne; liberal use of the sweep shot and a willingness to play attacking shots set him apart from others in the series, partnerships of 76 with Dave Richardson and 36 with Allan Donald ensured that Australia would have to bat for a 2nd time and meant that the South Africans now, at the very least, had a defendable lead of 116.

By the end of day 4 the door had been left slightly ajar for a South African win; de Villiers had taken 3 wickets in 5 balls towards the end of the penultimate day and Australia went to stumps at 4/63. I remember the start of last day perfectly Allan Border shouldering arms to Donald 2nd ball of the day and the ball just clipping the top of the off bail; all I can recall is thinking “oh no, not again” perfectly aware of the disappointment I’d felt a year earlier as Australia fell 1 run short, against the West Indies in Adelaide, chasing a similar total. And my god it was painful, stand in Captain Hansie Cronje applied the screws with fantastic field placements while Donald and De Villiers bowled superbly. Waugh was next to go after the Border dismissal; Donald full and fast with a hint of reverse too good for the Australian, Healy dragged one back onto his stumps and  Warne panicked and run himself out with 42 still needed for victory. But Craig McDermott, the man who had almost dragged Australia across the line against the West Indies a year earlier, set about narrowing the deficit. He played aggressively and with Damien Martyn put on 35; bringing the Australians to within 7 runs of victory. It was at this point my enduring image of this game occurred. Martyn ,who had looked well and truly overawed by the bowling and field placement ,in scratching out 6 runs in 1 hr and 46 minutes at the crease, threw his hand through a wide full delivery from Donald ,the ball flew straight to Andrew Hudson at cover, a guttural scream of joy emanated from the great South African quick as he sprinted to the fielder, arms held aloft, Martyn would not play test cricket for another 6 years and the match was as good as over. McGrath spooned a catch back to Fanie de Villiers the next over and South Africa had notched a memorable victory.

Fanie de Villiers picks up Glenn McGrath to secure a 5 run victory for South Africa

As we head into another test series between the two countries I can only hope we see some fantastic performances and some closely fought cricket. If we get anything close to the excitement of the S.C.G test in 1994 then fans are in for a treat.