• Most underrated Proteas: HD Ackerman

    In the second part of a new series, MARK KEOHANE identifies classy batsman HD Ackerman as one of the most underrated former Proteas.

    HD Ackerman could bat!

    And his international career seemed destined for longevity when he scored 57 in his first innings on Test debut in 1996 against a Pakistan attack that included Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Mushtaq Ahmed.

    Three Tests – and one month later – and Ackerman’s international career was over, bowled by legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for two in the second innings of South Africa’s second Test win at Centurion.

    Ackerman had slotted in at number four against Pakistan and three against Sri Lanka, but the selectors apparently saw enough in two Tests against Sri Lanka to be convinced that Ackerman didn’t have the technique to face quality spin bowling.

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    He had handled Ahmed without too much difficulty on Test debut and also stood up to quick men Younis and Akhtar.

    Muralitharan knocked over many brilliant batsmen, but when he bowled Ackerman, he ended a particularly promising South African Test career.

    I always felt the selectors were harsh on Ackerman because, hell, he could bat and he could lead a team. He was an outstanding captain in domestic and county cricket and if you speak to his peers, they’ll tell you there were few cricketers who understood the nuances of the game as well as Ackerman.

    He came from great cricketing stock, with his father Hylton Ackerman revered in Western Province. The older Ackerman never played for South Africa because of international sporting isolation, but he did play for the Rest of the World against Australia in the 1971/72 season.

    Ackerman senior played 234 first class matches and scored 12 219 runs at an average of 32.49

    HD (Ackerman) bettered his father’s first-class career, scoring 14 625 runs at an average of 43.65 in his 220 first class matches.

    HD’s career highlight came in Cardiff in July, 2006, when he scored 309 not out in Leicestershire’s first innings against Glamorgan and followed it up with an unbeaten 62 in the second innings.

    Ackerman, who captained Western Province, Gauteng and Leicestershire, was drafted into the Proteas squad for a tour of Zimbabwe in 2001, but never got a match.

    In 2004, he opted to move to England as a Kolpack player and could not be considered for international selection.

    He played out his first-class career in England, with Derbyshire’s South African-born Tim Groenewald being the last bowler to dismiss Ackerman, when he had him caught for 29 on August 14th in 2009.