November 20, 1997

Mightly Mac ready to go Down Under

By Michael Owen-Smith

Cape Town - Leaving Brian McMillan out of South Africa's Test side would have been unthinkable a month ago.

The United Cricket Board brainstrust are only too aware of what Mac means to the team.

It was underlined once again by last summer's series against Australia when Mac missed the first Test through injury.

The result? South Africa's worst home defeat since isolation by a humiliating innings and 196 runs.

When McMillan returned, South Africa lost a nailbiter that could have gone either way at Port Elizabeth by two wickets and then won by eight wickets at Centurion Park.

But the giant allrounder had such a poor tour of Pakistan that for the first time his position will be under serious threat during the series in Australia. There is no doubt that McMillan will start the Test series as the first choice No 6 batsman and that his

bowling will be a key element in the four-man pace attack that will have the main job of destroying Australia's potent lineup.

And his slip fielding can not be discounted either. He may not have taken wickets or made runs in Pakistan but the slip catches he took to dismiss star batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq in both innings were essential elements in South Africa's victory at Faisalabad.

Above all, he brings aggression to the team effort and skipper Hansie Cronje sees that as a key aspect of the Aussie series.

"We have to play the way we did at Centurion Park last season when we scored our sole Test win. That is, to bat with discipline and to bowl and field with aggression."

Cronje might have been describing McMillan when he made that assessment. But McMillan now has Herschelle Gibbs breathing down his neck as an alternative No 6 batsman while Jacques Kallis is a possible option as back-up seam bowler to Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener.

McMillan is confident that he will be part of the Test scene leading up to the 1999 World Cup with fixtures against Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and the West Indies.

"I am fit and ready to go," he said as he packed his bags for Australia yesterday.

"I am not worried about the threat posed by Klusener and Pollock as fellow allrounders. It won't do our team any harm to have three good allrounders in our lineup.

"I don't intend becoming a specialist batsman or anything like that. There are a lot of overs left in me as a bowler and I will see out my career as a specialist allrounder."