Late, former South African captain Hansie Cronje, who would have turned 47 today, is our Legend of the Week, brought to you by Aquavita.
Cronje will forever go down in the history books as the match-fixer, the man who took bribes from bookmakers to predetermine performances in 2000. Up until that point, however, he was a natural leader, an aggressive batsman, an intelligent bowler and an excellent fielder.
It was just three Tests into his illustrious career when he enjoyed one of his finest matches as an international player, against India in Port Elizabeth in 1992. Sent into bat at No 3 for the first time in national colours, Cronje was introduced early on in the first innings of the third Test after skipper Kepler Wessels fell for a duck. This, in response to India’s 212 all out, with both sides looking to go 1-0 up in the four-match series.
A 23-year-old Cronje displayed the patience and character required for Test cricket, staying at the crease for just under nine hours, facing 411 balls for his 135. It remained his highest Test score and it was by far his longest innings. More importantly, he carried his bat through the innings before being the last wicket to fall as the side reached 275. That proved enough to win the match by nine wickets, and ultimately the series 1-0.
Cronje tragically passed away at the age of 32 on June 1, 2002, when the cargo plane in which he was travelling crashed in treacherous weather conditions on Cradock Peak in the Outeniqua mountain range close to George.
In the words of Gary Kirsten, Cronje was ‘a great cricketer, a great performer and a great on-field leader of his country’.
He captained the Proteas in 53 Tests and 138 ODIs between 1994 and 2000. In 68 Tests would go on to make 3 714 runs at 36.41, as well as taking 43 wickets at 29.95; in 188 one-day internationals he made 5 565 runs at 38.64, took 114 wickets at 34.78 with an economy rate of 4.44, and held 72 catches.
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