We take a look at five memorable Proteas performances against Australia, featured in the latest edition of SA Cricket magazine.
In 2006, the Proteas and Australia co-starred in what can only be described as a freak occurrence. A mammoth 872 runs were scored in 100 overs of pulsating action. The fierce rivals were locked 2-2 in the five-match ODI series before Ricky Ponting’s 164 at the Bullring saw Australia pass the magical 400-run mark for the first time in the 50-over format. A stunned crowd were then treated to a batting masterclass by Herschelle Gibbs (175), which gave the home side increasing hope. Everyone chipped in, including tailender Makhaya Ntini, whose cheeky single off the penultimate ball gave Mark Boucher the chance to seal an unforgettable victory, which he duly took.
World Cup Glory
The ever-present Allan Donald, face clad in white zinc cream, appealed for an edge after bowling South Africa’s first-ever ball in a World Cup, in 1992. The thousands watching at the SCG heard Aussie opener Geoff Marsh edge it to South African wicketkeeper Dave Richardson, but umpire Brian Aldridge remained unmoved. The Proteas showed no remorse and got on with game. Their resilience ensured that the hosts limped to 170-9, with Donald (3-34) the chief destroyer. Skipper Kepler Wessels – playing against his former teammates – knocked off the required runs for an unexpected nine-wicket triumph.
Nothing prepared cricket fans for what transpired in the 1994 New Year’s Test at the SCG. Shane Warne, fresh from his ‘Ball of the Century’ to Mike Gatting in the Ashes, was the standout performer until Fanie de Villiers stole the show. Warne’s 7-56 in the first innings, which included adopting Daryll Cullinan as his ‘bunny’, destroyed the Proteas’ resolve as they limped to 169 all out. Australia then declared on a commanding 342-7. South Africa stuttered to 110-5 in the second innings before Jonty Rhodes (76) saw his team to 239 all out. Set 116 to win, the Aussies looked on track at stumps on day four. But De Villiers (6-43) had other ideas, and when he caught and bowled Glenn McGrath, there was bedlam in the Proteas camp.
Home Sweet Home
The Proteas returned the favour by hosting the Baggy Greens barely a month later. The opening Test at the Wanderers marked the first time the Aussies had toured South Africa since 1969-70. There was much controversy, though, as Merv Hughes and Shane Warne were heavily fined. Hughes smashed his bat into a fence and swore at a spectator, and Warne hurled obscene abuse at Andrew Hudson after dismissing him. Jonty Rhodes was influential in the field and at the crease. His first-innings effort saved the Proteas as they posted a respectable 251. The Proteas then buried Australia. Hansie Cronje’s (112) Man-of-the-Match performance in the second innings set the Aussies a colossal 454 to win, and the home side cantered to a 197-run victory.
After 106 years of battle, South Africa had never beaten Australia in a Test series away from home. But during the 2008-09 summer that changed, becoming the first visiting team to beat the Aussies since West Indies in 1992-93. Mitchell Johnson (8-61) had the Proteas in disarray in the first innings and the Test looked dead and buried, with the home side setting the tourists the unenviable task of chasing 414 on a fast WACA track. Graeme Smith (108) built a solid foundation before AB de Villiers (106) and JP Duminy steered their team to a six-wicket win and the second-highest run chase in history. Four years later the Proteas were on the rack before Faf du Plessis, a late replacement for Duminy, carved up an innings of a lifetime with a 376-ball Test century on debut – the fourth South African batsman to do so – that ensured a morale-boosting draw. It was a mental blow to the Baggy Greens; their eroded resolve saw Ricky Ponting’s final Test turn into a bloodbath with South Africa romping to a 309-run victory and a 1-0 series win, which retained their No 1 Test status.
Written by Alasdair Fraser
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images