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December 30, 1999
Gary Kirsten led the way on a day of tumbling batting records at Kingsmead yesterday as South Africa salvaged an honourable draw against England in the third cricket Test.
Kirsten matched Daryll Cullinan's 304-day-old record for the highest individual Test score by a South African, 275, finally being dismissed shortly after 5pm. He was just a single away from setting a new mark when part-time spinner Mark Butcher bowled him round his legs to finish an epic day on a most unexpected note.
The Western Province opener, under huge pressure to keep his place in the side, said he was not disappointed about failing to break his teammate's record, set in New Zealand on March 1, but instead savoured being able to save the Test for South Africa.
"That's what makes cricket such a great game, things happen out of nowhere. I was just ecstatic to get that far, whether you equal or break the record, so what? It was great to be very much involved in the rescue effort.
"I'm not really that exhausted, I like to play long innings, but it was very hot out there. I know I was under enormous pressure and I started poorly and needed a bit of luck. But it's funny, I was more relaxed than in my other recent innings, probably because I knew it was make or break, and I just decided to play normally. Things got better and I began moving well and then the runs came," Kirsten said.
On a day when the bowlers were left stupefied by the hot weather, a flat pitch and South Africa's rampant batsmen, numerous records fell.
Apart from equalling Cullinan's mark, Kirsten reclaimed the record for the most Test career runs (3792 to Hansie Cronje's 3689), beat the highest individual score for South Africa against England (formerly Eric Rowan's 236 at Leeds in 1951) and beat Graeme Pollock's 274 as the highest score at Kingsmead, to go with his new mark for the most Test centuries.
Other records were:
- South Africa's total of 572 for seven is their highest against England and fifth highest ever (beating 552 for five in Manchester last year)
- The 572 for seven is the second highest score in Test history by a team following on.
- Kirsten and Mark Boucher put on 192 for the fifth wicket, a record for SA against all countries (beating Cronje and Jonty Rhodes' 184 against England at Lord's last year).
Perhaps most importantly, in occupying the crease for 878 minutes, Kirsten played the second longest Test innings of all time, the factor which ultimately saved the game and the 1-0 series lead for South Africa.
Captain Cronje was warm in his praise for Kirsten's effort.
"It was new territory for us, following on, and we needed to show great guts to save the game. Gary exemplified that and it was a top-class effort. He had to get through three new balls and also deal with Phil Tufnell turning the ball out of the rough. It was an unbelievable effort and he had to work very hard."
Cronje also praised the contributions of Mark Boucher, who scored a crucial century in partnership with Kirsten at the start of the day, Jacques Kallis and Paul Adams, who said had bowled "really well" after "working very hard this season".
Meanwhile, the beleaguered national selectors have named an unchanged squad of 12 for the fourth Test, starting in Cape Town on January 2.
Once again, the choice will be between playing an extra batsman or an extra bowler, although Kirsten's name will now be the first one written down.
Squad: Cronje (capt), Kirsten, Gibbs, Kallis, Cullinan, Rhodes, Klusener, Pollock, Boucher, Donald, Adams, Hayward.
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