January 18, 2000

Cronje slams ICC over negative whispers on declaration

Centurion - Hansie Cronje stepped into Test history on Tuesday and also threw down the gauntlet to the International Cricket Council, saying he did want to be part of the game if they disapproved of his unprecedented step in reviving what had been the final match of the Millennium Series.

With strong support from the England's Nasser Hussain, South Africa's captain forfeited his second innings yesterday in a bid to wring a positive result after three of the five scheduled days of the fifth Test had been lost to the weather and wetland style bowlers run ups.

The South African captain gave the strongest indication yet that he did not want to be part of a system which allowed for overseeing the last rites of a Test and that it was time for the game to move on.

In some ways some purists may blanche at the thought of what took place at Centurion for the last match of the series. It may also seem contrived and breaking some unwritten code of conduct. Long-term, however, Cronje's and Hussain joined in the spirit of what was an historic, if unprecedented move.

It was the most dramatic decision in the game for more than two decades and led to one of the most exciting finishes to a Test since the famed tied Test at 'Gabba in Brisbane between Australia and the West Indies in the 1960/61 season.

Cronje said he believed there had been "some whispers from the ICC" about his decision to forfeit the South African second innings and expected that "it might raise a few eyebrows".

"I would be disappointed if this is the attitude and do not want to be part of the game if this is their thinking," Cronje told a media conference after the match at SuperSport Park which England won by two wickets in the last over.

"When I arrived at the ground I found there were 22 players who wanted to get involved in a game and the mood was a positive one," he said.

"I had been giving it some thought since Sunday when we would have had a sell out crowd and also again on Monday when we were unable to give the public anything.

"Both sides were in with a chance of winning with seven balls of the match remaining and if this is what the game is about then I feel we have given the spectator something in return for their support," he added.

"Of course I am disappointed we lost and our record of not losing in 14 matches has gone, but the choice was there and had to be taken," he said.

Scoring 249 in 72 overs on what was the last day of a Test would need a lot of hard work, suggesting the target was far from generous. As it is the laws allow for such mechanisms as declaring an innings at any stage and not the one run declaration farce which the lawmakers removed some years ago when rewriting Law 14. They also allow the second innings to be forfeited.

Cronje had suggested the declaration move to Hussain with the run option, thought to around 252 when South Africa declared their first innings at 248 for eight.

"I am playing in a very positive side and today was another chance to back their ability throughout to beat England," he commented. Hussain wanted to "test the water" first and see how the pitch behaved before making a decision whether to fall in with Cronje's idea. After half an hour the fun began when the England captain went off and after a brief discussion with Cronje accepted the decision.

"Of course I would have been gutted had we lost," Hussain admitted. "I think we all would have been. We have been here for three months and to lose the series 3-0 was not what we wanted. The 2-1 result is better than that.

"But Hansie deserves every support for what he did. He gave us a chance, he gave his side a chance and we gave the public a great day," he said.