Shane Warne was always a thorn in the flesh of South African batsmen © Getty Images
As Australia tour South Africa for one of the most anticipated series of the current season, we look back at the past encounters between the sides. Abhishek Mukherjee takes the readers through the first six series after the return of South African from their ban.
Australia vs South Africa, 1993-94
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 1, South Africa 1
The South Africans were back. They had absolutely blown Australia away in the World Cup match, and were keen to prove a point Down Under since their return. The Australians, too, were keen on a revenge of sorts.
Both teams were going through modifications. Clive Rice was not around anymore; Kepler Wessels, about to play Tests against the country he had played his first Test for, had slid to the middle-order; Peter Kirsten was, of course, there — but the main focus was on the exciting young group of Gary Kirsten, Daryll Cullinan, Hansie Cronje, and Jonty Rhodes. With the ball, too, Allan Donald had company in the form of Craig Matthews and a young fast bowler called Fanie de Villiers.
Like Wessels, Allan Border was also approaching the twilight of his career, with Mark Taylor the obvious replacement at the helm. David Boon was around, and the excitable Michael Slater and the elegant Damien Martyn had arrived as well. Above everything, there was Shane Warne — the newest sensation in the world of cricket.
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) saw a rain-washed match dominated by Mark Taylor’s august presence. He forged a 159-run partnership with Mark Waugh, and Border declared immediately after Taylor was bowled by Pat Symcox for 170. It was, however, the fourth afternoon, and the Test ended with South Africa on 258 for three after the hosts had piled on 342 for seven.
The second Test at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) turned out to be one of the greatest Tests of the era. The South Africans reached 91 for one before running into Warne: the Victorian blonde routed them for 169 with figures of seven for 56. Slater then hung around, playing an uncharacteristically dour innings and stretching the Australian lead to 123.
If Steve Waugh had played a role in the first Test, Mark Waugh outdid him in the next Test at St George’s Park with one of the finest fourth-innings performances in the history of the sport.
The young Gary Kirsten followed his 67 with 41, setting an example to his seniors. Rhodes scored at a brisk rate and scored 76, and with Warne finishing with five for 76 Australia were eventually set a paltry 117, and at 51 for one it seemed that Taylor and Boon would take the match away easily.
Then de Villiers conjured one of those special spells: Kirsten caught Boon brilliantly at short-leg; Tim May, sent as night-watchman, was trapped leg-before first ball; and Taylor was caught behind: Australia finished the day on 63 for four, but they still had Mark Waugh, Martyn, and Border himself.
Then ‘White Lightening’ came to his elements on the fifth morning: the first ball pitched on off and moved away; Border, veteran of many a battle, let it go peacefully. The next one was pitched exactly at the same spot — but held its line and crashed into the off-stump. It was that kind of a delivery that changes matches on their heads.
Australia were soon reduced to 75 for eight, but young Martyn held on, defying Donald and de Villiers as Craig McDermott kept on playing his strokes as the hosts inched closer to victory. And then, with eight runs to go, something froze in Martyn’s brain: he holed out to Andrew Hudson against Donald to an utterly hopeless stroke. A single later Glenn McGrath lobbed one back to de Villiers.
South Africa won by five runs. Wisden called it “An Australian collapse reminiscent of [Ian] Botham’s Test at Headingley in 1981 — the eventual total of 111 was exactly the same.” Even Ali Bacher, who had led South Africa to a 4-0 whitewash in their previous encounter, called it their “finest achievement.”
The humdinger could not have been bettered, and Steve Waugh, drafted in for Damien Martyn, ensured an Australian victory in the third Test at Adelaide Oval. Four of the top five Australians scored fifties while ‘Tugga’ got 164; and then he routed the tourists with figures of four for 26. Set 321 for a victory the tourists crumbled to 129 against McDermott and Warne.
South Africa vs Australia, 1993-94
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 1, South Africa 1
Allan Border’s swansong series was supposed to be big and the Australians were determined not to lose. New Wanderers did not turn out to be a good experience: though they trailed by only three in the first innings they were kept at bay by a 122 from Cronje in the second. Chasing 454 was always going to be difficult, and though Slater and Boon had things somewhat under control at 95 for one, they were eventually routed for 256.
Newlands got the Australians back to their elements. Hudson scored a hundred and both Peter Kirsten and Brian McMillan scored crucial 70s as South Africa reached 361. Australia responded with some solid batting: though not a single batsman scored a hundred five men scored over 45, and Australia obtained a lead of 74.
The hosts saved the innings-defeat comfortably before a short burst from Warne and Steve Waugh saw them slump to 103 for seven after they were 94 for two. Rhodes and Dave Richardson fought hard, but Steve Waugh’s career-best five for 28 turned out to be too much for the hosts, as they lost by nine wickets.
With the series levelled everything was to be played for at Kingsmead where Matthews skittled the Australians for 269. Once again Steve Waugh picked up three wickets to Warne’s four, but with six batsmen crossing the 40-mark, South Africa managed a comfortable 153-run lead.
Taylor scored a grim 98-ball 12, helping Slater put up 55 in 136 minutes; when Slater fell for 95, Australia still had to bat out for close to four hours when Border walked out for one final time in his Test career. What followed can only be referred to as Borderesque.
He did not assume centre-stage. He did not need to. He knew others have come up to share responsibilities, and this time it was Mark Waugh. Both batsmen grinded in and played out time: while Mark Waugh finished on 113 Border batted with characteristic grit without any willingness to score: he ended his career — rather fittingly — with 42 not out in 166 balls.
Faine de Villiers bowled a heroic spell for South Africa at Sydney in 1993-94 © Getty Images
South Africa vs Australia, 1996-97
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 2, South Africa 1
By the time the Australians took the flight to South Africa, they had usurped West Indies from their helm at the top of the table. South Africa, on the other hand, had turned into a formidable opposition under Hansie Cronje, ready to take anyone on at their den. A mouth-watering contest was on the cards.
Cronje chose to bat at New Wanderers, but the decision backfired as McGrath, the new Australian spearhead, sent Hudson, Jacques Kallis, and Gary Kirsten back to the pavilion with 25 runs on the board. There was a fight-back of sorts, but McGrath came back to snare Cullinan as well.
Then Warne intervened, and Michael Bevan, playing as a bowling all-rounder, removed Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener. Cronje played a lone hand with 76 till Richardson came to the fray, flailing the bowlers all over the ground. He added 58 with Allan Donald and 49 more with Paul Adams as the hosts reached 302. The wicketkeeper remained unbeaten on an 87-ball 76.
The joy of recovery was, however, short-lived: though Donald and Pollock kept picking up wickets they eventually ran into Steve Waugh and Greg Blewett with the score on 174 for four on the second evening. They were still there on Day Four, batting South Africa out of the Test.
Steve Waugh and Blewett batted throughout Day Three and added 385 — still the second-best partnership for the fifth wicket. The partnership ended when Steve Waugh was caught-behind off Kallis for a 366-ball 160, and Blewett fell soon with a 421-ball 214. Following some frantic hitting Taylor declared the innings closed 326 runs ahead.
The clueless hosts, whose only spinner had toiled hard for 52 overs with a single wicket to show against his name, now collapsed for 130 against Warne and Bevan, who picked up four wickets a piece. Australia would finally manage to go one-up in a series against South Africa for the first time since 1963-64.
If Steve Waugh had played a role in the first Test, Mark Waugh outdid him in the next Test at St George’s Park with one of the finest fourth-innings performances in the history of the sport. After Jason Gillespie bowled out the hosts for 209, the tourists themselves collapsed for 108.
Batting confidently with a 101 lead, Kirsten and Adam Bacher added 87 for the first wicket in 138 minutes. However, the Australians kept on making inroads, and Warne and Bevan ran through the tail as South Africa collapsed to 168. Australia lost Taylor and Matthew Hayden with 30 on the board, at which time Mark Waugh walked out to join Matthew Elliott.
Mark Waugh “later described it as his best innings in any cricket. ” The almanac wrote “stern defence was twinned with innate elegance” while describing the innings. Neither his twin nor Blewett lasted; eventually, with 78 to get off the last five wickets, Mark Waugh found a partner in Bevan.
When Kallis eventually ran through Mark Waugh’s defence he had already scored a sublime 116 from 228 balls. Australia needed only 12, but Cronje suddenly had Bevan caught, and Kallis broke through again by trapping Warne leg-before with five runs still to go.
Cronje possibly erred at this situation, not opting for Donald (or even Adams, who had picked two wickets) and going for the kill. He backed himself, and Ian Healy bludgeoned the third ball of his over above long-on for six. The humdinger had gone Australia’s way: they had finally managed to beat South Africa after 39 years.
The third Test at Centurion Park turned out to be a one-sided affair as the tourists found Donald (match haul of eight for 96) and Brett Schultz (seven for 91) too hot to handle. They were bowled out for 227 and 185 and managed to set a target of 29 despite McGrath’s first innings haul of six for 86. South Africa reached the target in 40 balls having lost two wickets.
The tour, of course, is generally remembered for Australia’s shift to a two-captain strategy. Taylor was gradually removed from the One-Day International (ODI) side as Steve Waugh took over.
Australia vs South Africa, 1997-98
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 1, South Africa 0
A 1-0 win in a three-Test series may not sound terribly exciting, but it could easily have been 2-1. Both draws were keenly contested, and both Tests were alive till the last session. South Africa set off to a nice start at MCG, reducing Australia to 77 for four before they ran into that man Steve Waugh again — this time with young Ricky Ponting for company.
The pair added 125 at a brisk pace before Steve Waugh departed for 96; Ponting carried on and reached his hundred; Paul Reiffel put up some resistance, but the last four wickets fell for seven runs in a space of 22 balls, and the hosts were bowled out for 309. In response, Kirsten carved out a painstaking 256-ball 83, but there was little resistance from the other end as the tourists conceded a 123-run lead.
A fuming Donald led the counter-attack with a lethal spell that left Australia reeling at 12 for three; with Pollock supporting him ably the broad bat of Taylor (59) was the only barrier that protected Australia from getting bowled out cheaply. Even then, at 146 for eight, it seemed that South Africa would have to chase something close to 300.
They hadn’t accounted for Reiffel, though: it was a calculated counter-attack that took the match away from South Africa. He added 62 with Michael Kasprowicz and 49 more with McGrath and eventually, finished with 79 not out from 115 balls. Donald’s six for 59 went in vain as South Africa were left to chase 381 in 122 overs.
Disaster struck when Reiffel ran through Kirsten’s defence before he scored a run, but Bacher supported Kallis, who had already come of age. The pair added 83, and just when it seemed that South Africa may have built a platform, Warne removed Bacher and, more obviously, Cullinan in a span of eight balls. Cronje fought hard for his 70 as did Kallis for his 101, but there was some panic when that man Steve Waugh once again intervened.
There were still almost 25 overs to bat out with Warne looking ominous, but McMillan and Pollock clung to the wicket. Taylor tried everything and Warne bowled on relentlessly till he found McMillan’s edge: the ball went to Taylor at first slip. However, the South African lower middle-order came handy as Richardson provided Pollock with company.
Brought back for one final burst, McGrath trapped Richardson leg-before with 22 balls left. But the seemingly infinite South African line-up then conjured Klusener, who batted out time with Pollock (there was still Pat Symcox left). Pollock’s valour had lasted 101 minutes, and a nail-biter came to a tame end.
The second Test at SCG turned out to be a rather one-sided anticlimax: Warne routed South Africa with figures of five for 75 and six for 34, South Africa scored 287 and 113, Mark Waugh got 100 and Steve Waugh 85, and Australia won by an innings and 21 runs.
Outplayed in two Tests, South Africa were determined to make a comeback at Adelaide Oval. The Australian attack was depleted thanks to the back injury of McGrath and a finger injury of Reiffel; Andy Bichel had to be drafted in, and a New South Wales leg-spinner called Stuart MacGill made his Test debut. South Africa, on the other hand, were without the services of Donald.
Even the new-looking line-up hit South Africa hard, reducing them to 305 for seven before McMillan got involved in three crucial partnerships happened: 69 with Pollock (40), 69 more with Klusener (38), and 74 with Symcox, who scored 54 batting at eleven. He himself remained unbeaten on 87, and the tourists reached 517.
The Australian innings was, on the other hand, a duel between Taylor and Pollock: while Pollock kept on denting the Australian line-up (he picked up seven of the first eight wickets to fall) Taylor defied him, carrying his bat for 169. Clouds of follow-on loomed on the horizon at 279 for eight, but with some helpline from Kasprowicz and MacGill Taylor took the score to 350. Pollock finished with seven for 87.
The South African innings was led by yet another Kirsten ‘special’ as the southpaw scored 108 not out in a team score of 193 for six. The target of 361 in 109 overs was too steep for a chase, especially after Pollock and Klusener reduced the hosts to 54 for three in the 31st over.
However, Mark Waugh scored another defiant hundred — this time a 305-ball 115 not out — and saved the Test with some support from Steve Waugh and Ponting. There was a mini-collapse of sorts when Ponting, Healy, and Bichel fell in quick succession, but Warne played out time with Mark Waugh and Australia retained the rubber.
Australia vs South Africa, 2001-02
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 3, South Africa 0
Given the intensity of the earlier series South Africa’s tour of Australia in 2001-02 turned out to be an anticlimax of sorts. Australia won all three Tests easily. The first Test at Adelaide saw Justin Langer and Damien Martyn pile up hundreds in the first innings and Matthew Hayden in the second, and Shane Warne picking up eight wickets to guide the hosts to a 246-run victory.
Pollock got to bat first in the second Test at MCG, but there was no resistance as the Australian fast bowlers — McGrath, Lee, and Bichel — bowled them out for 277. Langer (85) and Hayden (102) then added 202, Steve Waugh scored 90, and Australia obtained a 210-run lead.
Barring Kallis’s 99 there was no other resistance from the South Africans, who were bowled out for 219. The target was chased down in three overs after Langer fell to Pollock.
As Klusener was sent home before the third Test at SCG, the stage was set for Jacques Rudolph to make his debut. However, the South African board President Percy Sonn intervened the night before and Justin Ontong, a “player of colour”, had to be drafted in due to the board’s policy. Things became more awkward as Rudolph and Ontong had been roommates throughout the tour.
Ontong scored nine and 32, did not get a wicket, but fielded brilliantly and ran out Ponting. Other than that there was little interest around the Test: Langer (126) and Hayden (105) added 219 for the opening stand; Martyn, who had scored as consistently as anyone else, contributed 117 more; and with the lower-order also contributing, Australia amassed 554.
In response, Pollock’s men were shot out for 154 with McGrath, Warne, and MacGill claiming three wickets apiece. Following-on, Kirsten was keen on eradicating the 400-run deficit, and batted for 359 balls for his 153. There was support for him as batsmen three to eight all went past the 25-mark, but unfortunately, none of them managed to reach 75.
Warne and MacGill shared seven wickets between them as South Africa were bowled out for 452. Langer and Hayden chased down the target in 65 balls and the whitewash was complete.
South Africa vs Australia, 2001-02
No of Tests: 3
Result: Australia 2, South Africa 1
The ‘return’ series went almost along the same lines as the previous one with South Africa fighting gamely to pull one back in the final Test. The first Test at New Wanderers was a carnage where Hayden scored 122, and after Australia were down to 293 for five Martyn and Adam Gilchrist took the South Africans attack to the cleaners, adding 317 in 373 balls. While Martyn scored a relatively sedate 207-ball 133, Gilchrist romped to the fastest double-hundred at that time, reaching the landmark in 212 balls.
Steve Waugh declared the innings closed at 652 for seven with Gilchrist unbeaten on 204 from 213 balls. There was, however, a regret that Gilchrist took back from the innings: he missed out on hitting an advertising hoarding; hitting it would have made him richer by a gold bar worth 1.3 million rand.
Donald had broken down after sending down 15.2 overs, and it turned out to be his last Test; Langer remained his last wicket. South Africa succumbed rather meekly for 159 and 133 (Herschelle Gibbs scored 81 of these runs while the debutant Ashwell Prince had 77) as McGrath (eight for 49) and Warne (seven for 84) routed them within three days.
The second Test at Newlands was expected to go the same way when the hosts collapsed to 239. However, Makhaya Ntini rose to the challenge, and for once South Africa looked strong with a mini-collapse taking Australia from 130 for one to 185 for six. However, there was no going past Gilchrist, who stormed his way to 138 not out — off 108 balls. With Warne bludgeoning his way to a 65-ball 63 the pair put on 132 in 137 balls. Australia finished with 382.
South Africa fought back again as eight men crossed 20. Neil McKenzie scored 99, Kirsten got 87, Kallis 73, and a debutant called Graeme Smith secured 68. Warne’s marathon 70-15-161-6 on a flat track probably bore a testimony to his class as Australia were set 331 for a victory.
Most sides would have taken a cautious approach, but Langer and Hayden went after the target that gave the impression that they had a train to catch. The 133-ball partnership of 102 set the chase up nicely, and when Hayden eventually fell on Day Five for 96, he had added 99 in 153 balls with Ponting as well.
There was a mini-collapse of sorts when Nitini accounted for Mark Waugh and Adams removed both Steve Waugh and Martyn, but once again Gilchrist, coming out at 268 for six, rose to the task with a 24-ball 24. Warne played his shots as well, and the target suddenly came down to three with Ponting on 94. Ponting sealed the series with a six off Adams — a stroke that served the other purpose as well.
South Africa were beaten, but not demoralised. Once again they ran into Gilchrist, who slammed a 107-ball 91; with Ponting also scoring 89, Australia reached 315 — a failure by their standards. The hosts, however, fared worse as Brett Lee and Warne ran through them with four wickets apiece: they conceded a 148-run lead.
Despite the tight corner South Africa hit back: David Terbrugge removed Hayden and Langer by the fourth over, and not a single partnership got going as the champions were bowled out for 186. Kirsten and Gibbs went about the chase aggressively, adding 142 in quick time; young Smith played a hand as well, but the off-breaks of Mark Waugh eventually got him; Mark Waugh followed up with Gibbs, who scored 104, and when Warne had McKenzie caught at slip South Africa still needed 103 with six wickets left.
The Australians had smelled blood and Steve Waugh was not one to concede the advantage: however, the obdurate pair of Kallis and Prince was up to the task; they took the home side to the brink of victory before Warne obtained the consolation wicket of Prince. Mark Boucher, however, finished things off with a six off Mark Waugh, and that was that.
Read Part 5 of the series here.
Read Part 4 of the series here.
Read Part 3 of the series here
Read Part 2 of the series here
Read Part 1 of the series here
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)