Specials – When a bunch of amateurs nearly capsized the table-toppers

  Ten years ago, a motley crew of amateurs from the Emerald Isle embarked upon a life-changing expedition to the Caribbean. They had among their ranks a teacher, an electrician, a postman, a fabric salesman and a handyman. Little did they know that over the next month and  half, they were to become the new darlings of international cricket.

  Clubbed with hosts West Indies, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, the Irish unknowns were naturally written off by pundits and laymen alike even before they had set foot. It did not matter that Ireland had beaten two of their group rivals on the 50-over scene earlier. They had come off a poor World Cricket League outing in Nairobi and were just not meant to make it to the second round.

  However, a mere five days into the tournament, Ireland tore the form book and awakened the ignorant from their slumber. Back home, few were even aware that the national team was at the World Cup. The men in green first tied with Zimbabwe and then memorably dispatched Pakistan on St. Patrick’s Day. Not only did they enter the second round, they did it with a game to spare.

  On 5th March, 2007, 12 days before they knocked Pakistan out, Ireland took on mighty South Africa in the first of two warm-up fixtures. The Proteas had been freshly crowned as the world’s top-ranked ODI side, toppling defending World Cup champions Australia off their perch, if only briefly. Incidentally, South Africa were the first Test nation that Ireland ever beat, back in 1904.

  The scene for this warm-up match was the nondescript Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Ground in the town of Saint Augustine – having a population of less than 5,000 – in north-western Trinidad and Tobago. Each side had the liberty to play up to 13 players, of which 11 could bat and field. South Africa were at full strength, and were widely expected to win in a canter.


        Irish pace bowler Dave Langford-Smith celebrates after dismissing South Africa’s A.B de Villiers in a 2007 World Cup warm-up match (source – gettyimages)

  After Graeme Smith elected to bat first, Irish pluck came to the fore in the form of Sydney-born fast bowler David Langford-Smith, who had become the first Irishman to take an ODI wicket nine months before, when he dismissed a certain Ed Joyce at Belfast. He set the tone by removing Smith, caught behind by Niall O’Brien with the total at 15.

  Eleven runs later, Langford-Smith collected his second scalp, breaking through the defences of Abraham de Villiers, who was still a few years away from being christened as cricket’s ‘Mr. 360’. It got even better when the great Jacques Kallis too failed to read Langford-Smith’s medium pace, losing his woodwork in the process. The triple strike had reduced South Africa to 42/3.

  Herschelle Gibbs seemed to be in an attacking mood, having belted four boundaries in his 21, when the resolute Trent Johnston stopped him in his tracks by castling him to make it 57/4. Gibbs was the first of Johnston’s four victims, as the Wollongong-born Irish captain proceeded to make a mockery of the South African middle order with his tricky seam bowling.

  The wicket of Ashwell Prince ensured that the top five of the South African line-up were back in the hut with only 64 on the board. Ireland’s glee was soon escalated when the dangerous Shaun Pollock nicked one to the keeper and Loots Bosman got clean bowled in the same Johnston over. The number one ODI team had lost five for nine, and were now tottering at an unthinkable 66/7.

  As long as Mark Boucher was there in the middle, the innings had every chance of a revival. But John Mooney’s innocuous medium pace induced him to offer a catch to Kevin O’Brien, one of the better fielders in the Irish side. Ireland’s joy knew no bounds as South Africa were left gasping for breath at 91/8. Was an upset on the cards even before the tournament started?

  Andrew Hall thought otherwise though. The all-rounder, who came in at the fall of the seventh wicket, calmly rebuilt from the rubble with an unbeaten 67 off 98 balls. He found support from Robin Peterson, and together they frustrated the Irish with a ninth-wicket stand worth 85. South Africa-born Andre Botha, who played first-class cricket for Griqualand West, took the last two wickets.


      Irish captain Trent Johnston, who took 4/40, exults after taking the wicket of Ashwell Prince at St. Augustine (source – gettyimages)

  South Africa recovered to post 192 in exactly 50 overs, a total that was certainly within the realm of possibility for Ireland to chase. Johnston finished with 4/40 from ten overs while Langford-Smith collected 3/30 from eight. It was now up to the batsmen to deliver and supplement such a fine display by the bowlers, South Africa’s rearguard notwithstanding.

  Jeremy Bray perished early, caught behind off speedster Andre Nel for a single, but fellow opener William Porterfield held the innings together with a composed 37 despite losing Eoin Morgan and Niall O’Brien at the other end, both falling to Hall. It was Roger Telamachus who dislodged Porterfield, caught by Smith, to put Ireland in a dicey situation at 85/4.

  Kevin O’Brien then joined Botha in the middle, and the pair guided Ireland to a position of real strength with a fifth-wicket partnership of 54. Only 54 runs now separated the underdogs from an astonishing victory, and they still had six wickets in hand. Botha’s caught-behind dismissal to Nel for 40 however gave South Africa the opening they so desperately needed.

  The inexperience of the Irish batsmen proved to be their undoing and they suffered a meltdown, thus squandering their grip on the contest. The lower order failed to capitalise on the gains made thus far as pacemen Hall (3/30) and Charl Langeveldt (4/31) combined to dispose the last five wickets for just 11 runs. Kevin O’Brien tried his best to hang around, but was ninth out for 33.

  The Irish innings wound up at 157 in 44.2 overs, leaving South Africa relived victors by a narrow margin of 35 runs. Ireland’s bowlers, led by Langford-Smith (4/41) starred again in the second warm-up game against Canada three days later to help secure an easy seven-wicket win for their side.

  It may have just been a warm-up and Ireland may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but the spirit that emanated from their performance against a star-studded outfit that day was carried right into the tournament, during which they delighted their supporters and made the cricket world sit up and take notice of their exploits. Irish cricket was never the same again.

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – South Africa v New Zealand, Cape Town, 1961-62

  Coming into this five-match series, New Zealand had not played Test cricket for nearly three years. They had lost ten consecutive series dating back to 1950-51 and had won just one Test in 32 years and 52 attempts – against the West Indies at Auckland in 1955-56.

  New Zealand’s first tour of South Africa in 1953-54 was a hard lesson learnt as they went down 4-0, salvaging only a draw to avoid being whitewashed. That tour is best remembered for New Zealand’s valiance, spurred by a determined Bert Sutcliffe, in the emotionally-charged Johannesburg Test.

  The first Test of the 1961-62 series at Durban was a close affair, with the hosts prevailing by 30 runs. South African captain Jackie McGlew carried his bat for 127* to guide his side to a first-innings lead of 47. New Zealand were eventually set 197 to win, but they succumbed to Peter Pollock, who took 6/38.

  New Zealand’s performance in the Durban Test underlined that they were not going to go down without a fight, and so it proved as the series wore on. The second Test at Johannesburg was drawn, which meant that South Africa held a 1-0 lead when the teams arrived at Newlands for the crucial New Year’s Test on the first day of 1962.

  Graham Dowling, who had debuted at Johannesburg, fell without scoring to the tall paceman Godfrey ‘Goofy’ Lawrence soon after John Reid had elected to bat. However, his fellow opener Noel McGregor (68) laid a solid platform for the middle order to capitalise on. When he was bowled for 68 by debutant Sydney Burke, the score read 116/3.

  Reid was joined by Zin Harris and the two turned the tide towards New Zealand with a fourth-wicket partnership of 93. Reid scored an attacking 92 before slow left-armer Atholl McKinnon scalped him short of a well-deserved century. Harris was unperturbed by his captain’s loss and found an equally ambitious partner in Murray Chapple.

  Harris and Murray calmly went about their task on a harmless pitch as the South Africans failed to find a way through their alliance. Harris was unbeaten on 91 when stumps were drawn with New Zealand in the ascendancy at 337/4. He circumspectly inched to his first and only Test hundred the following day.

  Burke used his medium pace to great effect on the second morning and was instrumental in sparking a New Zealand collapse. He had Chapple caught behind by John Waite for 69, which ended the fifth-wicket stand of 148. Waite had a good time behind the wicket as he also stumped Harris for 101 (ten fours and two sixes) off Harry Bromfield soon after.


         New Zealand’s leg-spinner Jack Alabaster starred in Cape Town with a match return of 8/180 (source – stuff.co.nz/fairfaxnz)

  The lower order and tail were quickly dismantled thanks to Burke, who bowled his heart out to finish with 6/128 in 53.5 overs. New Zealand’s innings terminated at 385, a total they would have taken at the start, even though they lost their last six wickets for 28. This being a four-day Test, the follow-on mark for the hosts was 236.

  Openers McGlew and Eddie Barlow began soundly before Dick Motz took the important wicket of the home captain. Barlow seemed to be in his element, but leg-spinner Jack Alabaster had him caught by Harris for 51, the South African score now a potentially thorny 85/3.

  Clever bowling supported by quality fielding ensured that South Africa kept losing wickets before any substantial partnership could find its feet. Waite attempted to solidify the innings, but his dismissal at 157/4 triggered a slide of 6 for 33. The wreckers-in-chief were medium pacer Francis Cameron and Alabaster.

  Cameron delivered a fine performance as he returned a haul of 5/48. Alabaster, who has to be credited with denting the top order early, was equally effective with figures of 4/61. South Africa could muster only 190 in the face of their combination, and Reid had to decide whether to enforce the follow-on – then a rarity for a New Zealand captain.

  The New Zealand think-tank eventually opted to bat again, ostensibly because it would have been a risk batting last on a wicket expected to turn on the final day. The visitors ended the second day at 8/0 in their second innings and with a lead of 193 – by all means a highly secure position.

  Burke was at it again in the second innings, this time rattling the top order to renew South African hopes. His in-swinger was particularly fruitful as New Zealand wobbled to 44/3 and later to 127/6. Four batsmen from the top seven crossed 20, but none went further than 33. Burke had by now collected his second five-wicket haul.

  Wicketkeeper Artie Dick, who came in at number eight, ended up as the top scorer of the innings with an unbeaten 50 – his only Test fifty – that enabled his team to swell the lead. He dominated in an unbroken tenth-wicket stand of 49 with Cameron, much to the frustration of the hosts, before Reid declared at 212/9.

  South Africa were hampered by an injury to Lawrence, which meant that Burke had to bowl more than he would have expected. Yet, he recorded figures of 5/68, giving him a remarkable 11/196 from 81 overs in the match. This is the second-best return by a South African on Test debut, after Alf Hall’s 11/112 against England at the same venue in 1922-23.

  South Africa’s target was a daunting 407 with about eight hours of play left in the Test. There was more bad news in store for the hosts as McGlew was admitted to hospital after sustaining a finger injury, the score being 11/0 at this stage. Alabaster soon took the wickets of Barlow and Buster Farrer to reduce the score to 54/2 at stumps.


         Captain John Reid contributed to New Zealand’s first away win with 92 runs in the first innings and two vital wickets in the second (source – wikia.com)

  Roy McLean, batting at number four, began signalling his intent to keep sniffing at the target early on the final day. Alabaster added a third wicket to his tally when he removed Waite to make the score 100/3, but McLean mixed caution with aggression and gave Reid plenty to ponder about.

  McGlew returned at the fall of the third wicket to fight for his team, and a partnership worth 101 ensued between him and McLean. The duo steadily progressed in the middle, and at 201/3, the match was heading towards a climax. It was fast bowler Gary Bartlett who broke through, having McGlew caught behind for a gritty 63.

  The pitch was still easy to bat on and until New Zealand saw the back of McLean, they could not have afforded to rest. McLean kept the chase alive in the company of Colin Bland; their partnership realised a further 72 runs for the fifth wicket. 134 runs to win, six wickets in hand was the delicate equation at this stage.

  Bartlett did the star turn again, inducing McLean – who hit his fifth Test ton – into a hook that landed into the hands of Harris. In less than three hours, McLean produced a knock of 113 (18 fours and a six) that had given South Africa a real chance of a historic win – no team had chased down these many runs to win a Test.

  However, McLean’s dismissal signified another momentum shift. Bland battled on, his partnership with Kim Elgie mopping another 42 runs off target, before Cameron dismissed Elgie, and just two runs later, Reid had Bland LBW for 42. South Africa’s batting ammunition had been extinguished, the score now 317/7.

  The end was quick, with the last three wickets falling for only four runs. Though Alabaster was the pick of the bowlers with 4/119 (8/180 in the match), Bartlett and Reid, with two wickets apiece, had provided the vital scalps. Reid fittingly took the final wicket, that of Lawrence, as South Africa were bowled out for 335 to give New Zealand a 72-run win.

  New Zealand thus recorded their first ever overseas Test match triumph. It had taken a long time coming – a run of 30 winless overseas Tests in as many years was finally broken with a convincing all-round display. South Africa’s brave final-day attempt was not enough as the target proved to be a bit too much for their liking.

  South Africa bounced back in the fourth Test at Johannesburg, winning by an innings and 51 runs, before New Zealand levelled for the second time in the series with a 40-run win in the fifth Test at Port Elizabeth. The final result of 2-2 was a fair reflection of a well-fought Test series. 

Match Scorecard

In Focus – Former South African cricketer now an Olympic medallist

  Sunette Viljoen joined a rare group of international cricketers to have won an Olympic medal when she took the silver medal in the women’s javelin event at the Rio Olympics yesterday. The 32-year-old South African had played one Test and 17 ODIs for her country between 2000 and 2002.

  Competing in her fourth Olympics, Viljoen finished second with her best throw measuring 64.92 metres, behind Croatia’s Sara Kolak who had a throw of 66.18 metres. After finishing 35th and 33rd in the 2004 and 2008 Games respectively, she had missed out on a medal by just one place at London in 2012.

  It was back in 2000 when Viljoen made her international cricket debut for South Africa Women, in an ODI against England at Chelmsford. At 17 years and 10 days, she was then the youngest woman to play ODI cricket for South Africa. The Rustenburg-born all-rounder also played in the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand later that year.

  Viljoen’s ODI returns were modest, scoring 198 runs at 16.50 and taking five wickets at 33.20 with her medium pace. Her only half century was an unbeaten 54 against England at Lincoln in the 2000 World Cup, an innings that guided South Africa to a five-wicket win. Her best figures of 3/27 came in the same tournament, against Ireland at Christchurch.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: Sunette Viljoen of South Africa in the qualification round of the women's javelin during the evening session on Day 11 Athletics of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Roger Sedres/Gallo Images)

        Former South African all-rounder Sunnette Viljoen won the silver medal in the women’s javelin event at the ongoing Rio Olympics (source – gettyimages)

  Viljoen’s solitary Test, against India at Paarl in 2001-02, was the last international match she featured in. Though South Africa were beaten by ten wickets, she impressed with a gritty 71 in the second innings. Her javelin career began soon after and she bagged her first gold medal at the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad, India in 2003. 

  In her maiden Commonwealth Games appearance at Melbourne in 2006, Viljoen took the gold by a whisker – only 0.18 metres separated her from the runner-up. She repeated the feat four years later at the Delhi Games, this time in a much more convincing fashion. At the Glasgow Games of 2014, she finished second to Australia’s Kim Mickle.

  After the disappointing performances in 2004 and 2008, Viljoen almost took the bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, falling short of Germany’s Linda Stahl by only 0.38 metres and thus finishing fourth. Her dream of finishing on the podium has finally been realised in Rio de Janeiro, and it will no doubt be a moment to cherish for the dual sportswoman.

  This is the first medal to be won by a South African woman at the Rio Games and the country’s ninth in all. South Africa currently sit 34th on the table with a haul of one gold, six silvers and two bronzes. Besides Viljoen, Wayde van Niekerk (gold in 400m) and Luvo Manyonga (silver in long jump) have won medals in athletics for South Africa.

  With this achievement, Viljoen has become only the fourth international cricketer to win an Olympic medal, and the first in 96 years. The other three were Englishmen, all of whom played Test cricket after their Olympic successes – Claude Buckenham (gold in football, 1900), Johnny Douglas (gold in boxing, 1908) and Jack MacBryan (gold in hockey, 1920).

In Focus – Ireland Women create history in style

  A week after levelling the two-match T20 series with a maiden win over South Africa, Ireland’s sprightly women have created history again by winning the final match of the ODI leg. This is the first time that Ireland – whether men or women – have defeated South Africa in an ODI.

  Though South Africa had already wrapped the four-match series with easy wins in the first three ODIs, Ireland, led by Laura Delany, had everything to play for in the concluding battle at the Hills Cricket Club ground in Dublin. They went on to produce an utterly convincing display to prove that they are no pushovers.

  South Africa never really got going after deciding to bat amid windy conditions. 20-year-old vice-captain Kim Garth bowled a tight spell and was duly rewarded with the wickets of openers Laura Wolvaardt and Trisha Chetty, who had scored 105 and 95 respectively in the third ODI.

  From thereon, the Proteas were stifled by an increasingly disciplined Irish bowling attack. Medium pacer Louise McCarthy got rid of the dangerous Mignon du Preez – who had scored an unbeaten century in the second ODI – before Garth (3/27) came back to grab her third scalp in the form of Lara Goodall.


     Former captain and star all-rounder Isobel Joyce scored an unbeaten 62* to guide Ireland to victory (source – cricketireland.ie)

  With South Africa reeling at 57/4, the hosts now had a firm grip on the proceedings. Andrie Steyn scored a plucky 43, but wickets at regular intervals nullified her efforts. Captain Dinesha Devnarain was brilliantly run out by Lucy O’Reilly while rookie Gaby Lewis – all of 15 years of age – accounted for Sune Luus with her leg spin.

  Just when Steyn and Chloe Tyron were attempting a recovery, veteran Ciara Metcalfe had the former caught behind by Mary Waldron, who took four catches. O’Reilly joined the party as well, nailing Yolandi Fourie thanks to a catch from Isobel Joyce, before Metcalfe (3/23) collected the last two wickets, including Tyron’s, to restrict the opposition to a measly 143.

  Having conceded totals of 283, 272 and 260 in the first three games, this was a significant improvement from the bowlers and the onus now lay upon the batting line-up to finish the task. The start was a bit wobbly – Clare Shillington, Una Raymond-Hoey and Cath Dalton were all back in the hut within 16 overs.

  Shillington had raced to a breezy 28 to give the chase a bright start, but her innings was cut short by a direct hit from Ayabonga Khaka. The evergreen Joyce came in at 68/3 to join Lewis in the middle. Lewis’ maturity belied her years as she admirably dropped anchor while Joyce went on the attack at the other end.


            Vice-captain Kim Garth took 3/27 to dent South Africa’s top order (source – alloutcricket.com)

  This mixture of caution from the talented youngster and aggression from the senior pro soon blossomed into a commanding partnership, evaporating any faint hopes that the South Africans might have entertained. Joyce reached her fourth ODI fifty from 67 balls with a boundary off Fourie in the 36th over.

  Another boundary from Joyce – her 12th – from the first ball of the next over off Marcia Letsoalo sealed Ireland’s comprehensive seven-wicket victory. The unbroken alliance raised 78 runs in 20.3 overs – Joyce scoring 62* in just 71 balls, Lewis an equally valuable 27* in 70 balls.

  This heart-warming win is yet another addition to the successes of the Irish women’s team over the past couple of years. The T20 win last week was not as much of a surprise as was made out to be, considering Ireland’s consistent growth in the format.

  Last December, Ireland, under the inspirational leadership of Joyce, won the World T20 Qualifier in Thailand by defeating Bangladesh in the final. In the World T20 proper earlier this year, they came within 14 runs of defeating Sri Lanka at Mohali. In 2013-14, they beat Pakistan by six wickets at Doha.

  The women’s game has been infused with new vigour following the rise of the T20 format, and the performances of emerging teams are a welcome development. Ireland Women have been steadily improving and the twin wins against South Africa are a further indication of their unquestionable talent.

Match Scorecard 

In Focus – Namibia’s Sunday to remember

  Unheralded Namibia produced one of the greatest shocks in youth cricketing history as they toppled defending champions South Africa by two wickets in a gripping Group A match of the 2016 Under-19 World Cup at Cox’s Bazar.

  Needing nothing less than a win to stay alive in the competition, South Africa crumbled in spectacular fashion after deciding to bat first. Having already dished out an ordinary performance against Bangladesh, their batsmen simply imploded in the face of some disciplined pace bowling from their neighbours.

  18-year-old Fritz Coetzee set the tone by removing the openers in his first two overs itself. This excellent start was enough to galvanise the rest of the pack as the so-called ‘minnows’ refused to remove their feet from the throats of the ‘big boys’.

  Michael van Lingen, another 18-year-old, ripped through the middle order as South Africa fell from a shaky 35/2 to a hopeless 37/6 in just 15 balls. Further sorrow was in store for the champions as they lost two more wickets with barely half the overs finished. The score read a scarcely-believable 60/8 and it could not have been worse.

  Willem Ludick attempted a revival with a patient 42 from number eight, but the final total of 136/9 in their allotted 50 overs was far from convincing. Van Lingen (4/24) and Coetzee (3/31) shared seven victims between them while 19-year-old captain Zane Green had a sublime outing, pouching five catches behind the wicket.

  The bowlers had done their job, now all the batsmen had to do was hold their nerves and see their side to a famous win. However, it was not going to be easy as the bruised Proteas struck first blood, removing both openers to have the score at 10/2. In walked Lohan Louwrens, all of 16 years old.

  Louwrens’ maturity belied his years as he built a highly creditable innings under pressure. Undeterred by the wickets falling around him, he set his sights on achieving the modest target. At 74/5, the contest could have gone either way but Louwrens found an able partner in Charl Brits.


      The Namibia Under-19 team rejoice after beating South Africa in their crucial group match of the Under-19 World Cup (source – daily-sun.com/habibur rob)

  The pair shared a stand of 52 for the sixth wicket, and in spite of a late flurry of three wickets for ten runs, Namibia’s young guns ensured that they became the first sporting unit from their country to reach the quarterfinals of a major event. Louwrens remained unbeaten on 58 while Coetzee hit the winning single, much to the joy of his teammates.

  Earlier in the week, Nepal had seen off New Zealand to enter the quarterfinals. The success of Namibia and Nepal is yet another reminder of how the presence of the non-Test playing nations can add excitement to a global tournament. Such are the peformances that can inspire future generations to take up the game.

  Unfortunately, the closed-door mindset of the ICC neutralises the efforts of these young cricketers who undoubtedly aspire to play for the senior team at the World Cup. With the 2019 ‘World Cup’ slated to have just ten teams, it is hard to see how they can remain motivated when there is virtually no scope to qualify for the game’s premier event.

  While it would be wishful thinking to hope for the ICC to change its stance in the near future, this result has the potential to serve as a shot in the arm for Namibian cricket. Such a landmark win over their celebrated neighbours who were defending the title can do wonders to the profile of the game in the country.

  Interestingly, this is not the first time that Namibia Under-19 have collected a big scalp on the world stage. Back in the 2002 edition in New Zealand, they had beaten Sri Lanka by four wickets. Pace bowler Burton van Rooi – who was to play for the senior side in the 2003 World Cup – was the hero of that game with 4/27.

  Namibia will now face heavyweights India in the quarterfinal on the coming Saturday. The Under-19’s success story has come as a ray of positivity to the country’s cricket fraternity, which was jolted by the unfortunate death of their star batsman Raymond van Schoor last November.

  Moreover, earlier in 2015, the senior side had missed out on a spot in the World Twenty20 by a whisker when they were knocked out by Oman in a must-win game at the qualifying tournament. This loss also meant that they squandered a chance to secure full T20 international status.

  Namibia’s win against South Africa was preceded by a comprehensive nine-wicket defeat of Scotland, and thus an eight-wicket defeat in the final group game against hosts Bangladesh did not have any bearing on their passage to the next round.

  Irrespective of how the Namibians perform in the quarterfinal against India, they have done enough to prove that if given adequate opportunities, there is no reason why a supposed underdog team cannot achieve success against more experienced opposition.

Famous Test Matches – Sri Lanka v South Africa, Kandy, 2000

  South Africa came into this three-match series riding on a rich vein of form, having won their past five series and losing just one of their last 17 Tests. Five months earlier, they had secured a 2-0 sweep in India and now aimed at repeating the dose in Sri Lanka on their second tour of the country, the first being in 1993 when they won 1-0.

  But the off-field happenings could not have been more contrasting. These successes had come under the captaincy of Hansie Cronje, who was now a fallen figure after having admitted to match-fixing. Since the Indian tour, which was the focal point of the scandal, South African cricket had turned upside down and it was up to new captain Shaun Pollock to restore the team’s credibility.

  In the first Test at Galle, South Africa ran into a Sri Lankan outfit smarting from a 2-0 reversal at home against Pakistan just three weeks earlier and were drubbed by an innings and 15 runs. The South African batsmen were bamboozled by the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 13 wickets in the match.

  A week after the lopsided opening duel, the teams met at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy for the second Test, played from July 30 to August 2. A year ago, Sri Lanka had posted a landmark win – which ultimately gave them the series – against Australia at this venue and now were well poised to secure a maiden series win over South Africa as well.

  Sanath Jayasuriya opted to field after winning the toss, hoping that his bowlers would extract the maximum from the pitch which was initially a dry turner tailor-made for spin, but attained a fair share of moisture due to heavy rain prior to the opening day. It was evident that batting would be a challenge from the very outset.

  Pacemen Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa struck gold immediately, respectively sending back openers Gary Kirsten and Neil McKenzie for ducks within the first two overs. The introduction of off-spinners Muralitharan and Kumar Dharmasena only worsened things for the visitors. 

zzzulu      Lance Klusener struck an unbeaten 118 in the first innings to steer South Africa to safety from the depths of 34/5 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Dharmasena castled Daryll Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes while ‘Murali’ accounted for Jacques Kallis at the other end. With the top five back in the pavillion, South Africa were tottering at 34/5 in the 19th over and could not have imagined a worse start to such a crucial Test match. 

  However, they found their saviours in Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher, who combined for a fortune-changing century stand at a fast clip. The two forged 124 runs in 33.1 overs for the sixth wicket – mixing caution with timely aggression – before Boucher was run out for a gutsy 60.

  Pollock and Nicky Boje then fell in successive balls to Upul Chandana’s leg-spin, the score now reading 173/8. But Klusener carried on with intent and added 37 with Paul Adams for the ninth wicket and a priceless 43 with Nantie Hayward for the tenth. 

  ‘Zulu’ remained unbeaten on 118 off 219 balls – his third Test hundred and arguably his finest innings ever – as South Africa wound up at a respectable 253. He hit 13 fours and two sixes and showed great application in keeping the spinning trio – who took seven wickets between them – at bay. Sri Lanka ended an absorbing first day at 15/0.

  Openers Marvan Atapattu and Jayasuriya adopted a patient approach on the second morning as they realised 53 runs. Atapattu added another 56 with Russel Arnold for the second wicket as he frustrated the bowlers with his copybook technique. He was joined by Arjuna Ranatunga at 182/4 and the pair steered Sri Lanka to a lead of seven by the end of the day, with Atapattu on 107*.

  Atapattu and Ranatunga stretched their partnership to 104 before Pollock trapped the former in front early on day three for 120 from 292 balls with 15 fours. This led to a lower-order collapse as South Africa fought back with quick wickets. Ranatunga was sixth out for 54, contentiously given LBW off a rising Hayward delivery.

  The batsmen to follow failed to last long and the last six wickets thus fell for just 22 runs in 7.1 overs. Pollock was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets. Trailing by 55, South Africa again began poorly, with Zoysa removing McKenzie for the second time in the match with the score at 10.

  Kirsten too fell cheaply, bowled by Dharmasena, and when Muralitharan got rid of Cullinan, South Africa were three down and still behind by five runs. Kallis put his hand up amid the crisis and produced a solid innings under pressure on a tough pitch. He found support in Rhodes, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand worth 71.

zzkallor     Jacques Kallis’ solid 87 in the second innings gave South Africa an opportunity in spite of conceding the first-innings lead (source – gettyimages)

  Jayasuriya then dented the visitors with a key double-strike within the space of seven runs. He had both Rhodes and Klusener caught behind by young wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara to reduce the score to 128/5. Kallis looked good for a hundred but was castled by Muralitharan for 87 off 208 balls with six fours and a six.

  Kallis’ dismissal meant that South Africa were ahead by 131 with just two wickets in hand. They ended the third day placed at 192/8. However on the fourth day, the Proteas’ tail wagged again – Boje and Adams put on 45 for the ninth wicket before Chandana dismissed the former and Hayward in four balls to restrict the final total to 231.

   Not surprisingly, the spinners took eight of the wickets. Sri Lanka were thus left with over five sessions to score 177 runs and seal their first series win against South Africa. While the hosts had banked on their spinners, South Africa needed a good show from their fast bowlers to make a match of it.

   They indeed provided the perfect start. Pollock had first-innings centurion Atapattu LBW off the very first ball of the chase. At the other end, Hayward sent back the dangerous Jayasuriya in the same manner off his first ball before having Mahela Jayawardene caught behind four balls later.

  With both the openers out for golden ducks and the scoreboard reading a precarious 9/3, the visitors had seized the initiative. It soon became 21/4 as Kallis joined the party by taking Sangakkara’s wicket. Sri Lanka went to lunch at 41/4 with Arnold and Ranatunga in the middle.

  The second session saw Ranatunga – playing his penultimate Test – launch a breathtaking counter-attack. The former captain caught the South African bowlers and fielders off guard with a flurry of piercing shots to the boundary. He reached his fifty in just 36 balls while Arnold played the anchoring role at the other end. 

  Arnold and Ranatunga put their team well on course for victory with a partnership of 109 that took only 23.3 overs. With 47 needed, six wickets in the bank and a rampant Ranatunga at the crease, Sri Lanka were firmly in the box seat. It was Boje who provided a much-needed opening by removing Arnold, LBW for 40.

zzzzranat     In his penultimate Test, Arjuna Ranatunga smashed a rapid 88 to rescue Sri Lanka during their tense chase of 177 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Three runs later, Klusener scalped Dharmasena and South Africa were back in the hunt. Even then, they still needed to see Ranatunga’s back. The big moment arrived three balls before tea as the agile Rhodes caught Ranatunga at short-leg with a reflex catch off Boje. The score read 161/7 and the pendulum had swung.

  Ranatunga scored 88 in just 103 balls, adorned with 15 fours, and also passed 5000 Test runs in the process. But his dismissal had ensured that the Sri Lankan tail was left with the tricky task of scoring 16 runs as the final session began. Klusener, in the thick of things as always, bowled Chandana with a yorker off the very first ball post tea.

  The crowd at the picturesque ground was fast getting jittery as Zoysa joined his fellow paceman Vaas in the middle. The pair hung around for 29 balls, bringing the target closer by eight runs, before disaster struck in the form of a mindless misunderstanding.

  To add to the drama, Jayasuriya had come in as a runner for an injured Zoysa. With eight needed to win, Vaas, at the non-striker’s end, set off for a run but was sent back by a hesitant Jayasuriya. By the time Vaas made a return dash to his crease, it was too late as the throw from Kallis had found its way to Klusener and on to the stumps.

   The last man Muralitharan was out the very next ball, umpire Daryl Harper making an error of judgement while giving a caught-behind off Boje (3/24). South Africa had prevailed in a fluctuating match by seven runs and remained alive in the series by the skin of their teeth. Klusener and Ranatunga shared the man of the match award.

  South Africa had bounced back from a disadvantageous position in each of the four innings and eventually fought their way to a nerve-jangling victory. This is their second-narrowest win in terms of runs after their five-run triumph against Australia at Sydney in 1993-94. Also, this is Sri Lanka’s narrowest defeat. The hosts had themselves to blame for the twin collapses of 6/22 and 6/39.

  The deciding Test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club – Ranatunga’s farewell – ended in a draw and so did the series. South Africa’s unbeaten series streak continued until December 2001, when they were whitewashed 3-0 in Australia.

Match Scorecard

Who Would Have Thought It – Last wicket exploits floor Western Province twice over

  One of the most intriguing matches in South Africa’s first-class cricket history was played across two calendar years in the 1925-26 Currie Cup. Orange Free State hosted Western Province in the sixth match of the season from December 31, 1925 to January 2, 1926 at the Ramblers Cricket Club Ground in Bloemfontein.  

  This was the second match of the season for both the teams. In their respective opening matches, which ended just two days earlier, Orange Free State had gone down narrowly by 27 runs at home to Griqualand West while Western Province were handed an innings-and-74-runs defeat by defending champions Transvaal at Johannesburg.  

  Wicketkeeper-batsman Thomas Holmes, captain of Orange Free State, elected to bat after winning the toss. Very soon, openers Mick Commaille – who played 12 Tests for South Africa – and Augustus Hewitt-Fox were dismissed by fast bowler Victor Veal with just nine runs on the board.

  Colin Marran and Leopold Cusworth combined for a third-wicket stand worth 54 to attempt a revival, but timely inroads by the Western Province bowlers meant that the score was soon reduced to 139/7.   The Reid brothers William (37) and Alfred put on 46 for the eighth wicket but both were out to Veal (4/68) within three runs of each other.

  The score now read 189/9 as last man Lancelot Fuller, who was hardly known for his batting skills, joined Lindsay Richard ‘Len’ Tuckett in the middle. Tuckett, who formerly played for Natal, had featured in one Test – which happened to be his only one – back in 1913-14 against England at Johannesburg, scoring 0 and 0* and bowling 20 overs without a wicket.  

  Fuller surprisingly launched into the bowling attack and Tuckett provided solid support at the other end. It all began to come apart for the Western Province bowlers after a hitherto polished effort. Taken aback by Fuller, the last wicket proved to be elusive.

  23-year-old Fuller looked set for a memorable hundred until debutant Theodore de Klerk trapped him leg-before for 84, much to his teammates’ relief. This was his first and only half-century in first-class cricket.  

  Tuckett struck an assured unbeaten 30 and the partnership fetched a bountiful 115 runs. The final total swelled to 303 at a healthy rate of 3.75 runs per over. 32 extras – 24 of them through byes and leg-byes – helped the home team’s cause.  

  The Western Province innings too began poorly, with openers Pieter van der Bijl (father of Vintcent, who is widely regarded as the finest bowler never to have played a Test) and Francis Godfrey dismissed early to make the score 10/2.

  All-rounder Denjis Morkel, who was to play 16 Tests in the near future, was the only batsman from the top order to show resistance. But Alfred Reid scalped him for 43 and just before stumps, Tuckett trapped Nicholas Blanckenburg in front with his fast-medium pace to leave the visitors struggling at 89/5 at the end of the first day.  

  As day two comenced, Tuckett continued from where he left and sent back Stephen Steyn and Veal in the same over to dent the innings further. Western Province were now tottering at 91/7 and staring at a huge deficit. However de Klerk, who had come out to bat late on the first day at number seven, went on to enjoy a fine debut innings which rescued his team.

  De Klerk found a willing ally in Ian Goulden (60) and the duo put together a vital 135 for the eighth wicket. De Klerk was out hit wicket for 79 – which remained his highest first-class score – and his effort enabled Western Province to reach 259. Tuckett was the pick of the bowlers with 4/99.

zfgj       Lindsay ‘Len’ Tuckett had the unique distinction of being a part of century partnerships for the tenth wicket in both innings of a first-class match (source – remembered.co.za)  

  The lead for Orange Free State was 44, which could have been less or more depending upon which of two rearguard efforts are taken into consideration. In the second innings, Commaille and Hewitt-Fox provided a sound start, putting on 38 before the former was dismissed.

  Hewitt-Fox (60) was in good touch and along with Marran he guided his side to 81/1 and a clear position of strength. However the match took another turn as the visiting bowlers scythed through the middle order with a powerful collective display.  

  Morkel, Veal and Goulden (3/58) all captured two wickets each to rattle the middle order as Orange Free State crashed to 108/7, which further became 121/9. Eight wickets had fallen for the addition of just 40 runs, and the lead was now only 165 with the final wicket standing.

  First-innings hero Fuller was promoted to number ten but he perished for a duck, bowled by Goulden. Tuckett was still there in the middle, but surely it was only a matter of time before the last wicket fell?  

  Frustratingly for Western Province, it was not to be. Tuckett had a different partner this time in the form of debutant Frank Caulfield. The most crucial rescue act of the game ensued, as the two milked the bowlers on their way to an astonishing partnership worth 129 runs. Orange Free State ended the second day at 212/9, ahead by 256. 

  Captain William Stephen broke the stand in the first session of the final day by having Tuckett LBW for 70 while Caulfield remained unbeaten on a heroic 56. The tenth-wicket stand fetched more than half of the eventual team total of 250. 

  This was the first and remains the only instance of a team recording century stands for the last wicket in both the innings of a first-class match. Across both innings, the tenth-wicket realised as much as 44.12 % of the total runs scored. The deflated visitors now ended up facing a target of 295.

  A pepped-up Caulfield struck early to remove Godfrey and van der Bijl and reduce the score to 34/2. Morkel (39) tried to defy the bowling but Caulfield (3/63) got the better of him as well. A lack of substantial partnerships hurt the chase and besides Archibald Palm, who scored a gritty 75, none of the batsmen stayed long enough to provide hopes for a win.

  Western Province were eventually bowled out for 248 and were left to rue at what might have been. Orange Free State’s last-wicket stand had twice managed to stem a crisis situation and ultimately overturned it into a 46-run victory.

  However, this was to be their only win of the season as they lost three of the next four games to finish sixth out of seven teams with six points. Western Province finished fifth with two wins and ten points.  

  Tuckett (1885-1963) played for Orange Free State till 1929-30 before calling a day on his two-decade-long first-class career at the age of 44. His son, also named Lindsay, played nine Tests for South Africa and is currently the oldest living Test cricketer at 96 years and 164 days. Joseph Cox, brother-in-law to the senior Tuckett, played three Tests in 1913-14.  

  Fuller too played first-class cricket till 1929-30 before dying at the young age of 44 in 1946. Caulfield, in spite of his match-winning debut, played only two more first-class matches and his career did not extend into the next season. He too died at a young age of 42 in 1936.

Match Scorecard – http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/11/11751.html