Being at the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow 2014 reminds me of when cricket was a medal sport. Back in 1998, in Kuala Lumpur. What a golden moment it was too, with South Africa winning the final, against Australia.
While most followers will remember that victory, what is somewhat less well-known is that it was only a heroic last-wicket stand between Nicky Boje and Alan Dawson that got South Africa to the final.
They came up against Sri Lanka in that semi-final. Shaun Pollock won the toss and elected to field. The pitches in the Malaysian capital weren’t exactly conducive to good batting, and 200 off 50 overs was considered a very smart total.
Pollock was his usual conservative self (1-15 in 6 overs) but it was when the ball was thrown to the spinners that the wickets started to tumble. Boje – the man of the match – took 4-16 from 9 overs, Derek Crookes weighed in with 2-17 and Mike Rindel claimed 1-3 as Sri Lanka tumbled to 130 all out from 44 overs.
In their turn at the crease, Rindel and Andrew Hudson put on 26 before Hudson was bowled for 7. Then the wickets fell. Crookes (4), Rindel (25), Herschelle Gibbs (1), Jacques Kallis (10), Dale Benkenstein (9), Pollock (7), Mark Boucher (11) and Steve Elworthy (7) all got out and South Africa were staring down the barrel at 96-9 in the 36th over.
Needing another 35 off 15 overs with no room for error, Boje and Dawson nervously chipped away at the target. They eventually got there to scenes of wild celebration. Boje hit 20 and Dawson 15 and South Africa were in the final.
There they played Australia.
Captain Steve Waugh cracked an unbeaten 90 and Darren Lehmann hit the next highest (26) as Australia were all out for a competitive 183, Pollock taking 4-19 and Paul Adams 2-33.
Lehmann and Waugh had put on 63 for the fifth wicket when he edged Pollock behind to Boucher. Furious with himself he strode off the field and re-arranged the pre-fab structure that passed as the Australian dressing room. The chairs were still being kicked around when Adams got Tom Moody stumped by Boucher. If anyone had any doubt about what a Commonwealth Games gold medal meant they simply had to be there to have their minds changed.
In their turn at the crease Hudson and Rindel got South Africa off to a flyer. Hudson struck five boundaries as he raced to 36 off 39 balls and the pair put on 73 for that first wicket to reduce the target to only another 111 runs required. Rindel (67) and Kallis (44) then put together a match-winning 72 for the third wicket and Benkenstein hit the winning runs as South Africa got home with 24 balls left, to win by six wickets.
Cricket was then removed from the Commonwealth Games programme. There had been a move to have it reappear at the 2018 installment on Australia’s Gold Coast, but maybe the Australians didn’t want to suffer embarrassment on home soil, as the idea was rejected by the ICC.
What are the chances then of cricket returning to the Games fold in 2022? In Durban…