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Middle order

The dependables

Six contenders for South Africa's three middle-order spots - none of whom was in the habit of letting the side down

Telford Vice

November 24, 2009

Comments: 50 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Pollock bats, England v South Africa, first Test, 1965
Graeme Pollock: hard to overlook © PA Photos

The middle order is the archetypal South African batsman's natural habitat, the place where push comes to shove for him. Not for him the epic stoicism that seems bred into the purehearts of the top order, nor the haphazard existence that is the lot of those who take guard amid the precariously tilting debris of what is kindly called the lower middle order. Far rather ask him to score his runs quickly while there are still wickets in the bank, and don't put too much emphasis on aesthetic considerations.

Some South Africans seem stifled by technique, while a few make a mockery of it. The majority take the coaching manual as their guide to varying degrees, and conjure the rest as they go along. These are the denizens of the middle order.

There is something in the national character that relishes proving people wrong. South Africans appear to be better than most at realising that the light they see at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train, even when the rest of the world is convinced that it bloody well is.

This is, after all, the country that should have been broken by centuries of race hatred and inequality. It wasn't. Then it became the country that should have been destroyed in the aftermath of those centuries of race hatred and inequality. Again, it wasn't.

Instead, the centre of South African society held firm thanks to the leadership of a man whose north star was fairness and justice for all. In another world, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela would have made a middle-order batsman of the highest order. He's not on our list of contenders for South Africa's middle order, but those who have made it aren't in the habit of letting people down either.

Jacques Kallis
Blessed with an impregnable mind and the forthright technique to make the most of being built like a rugby forward. A master batsman, a wicket-taker of note, and an unsurpassed slip fielder. A modern colossus.

Daryll Cullinan
That rare thing: a South African batsman imbued with natural flair. Essayed his strokes in the grand manner. Broke Graeme Pollock's record as the youngest South African to score a first-class century.

Dudley Nourse
Never mind his Test average of 53.81. Rather remember that he batted for nine hours with a broken thumb in Nottingham in 1951, scoring 208 and leading South Africa to their first Test win in 16 years. Respect.

Graeme Pollock
Could have felled a large tree with one swoop of his cover drive. With his feet planted wide apart and his chin resolutely forward, he stirred something in every soul. Genius.

Herbie Taylor
Not many had the gall to farm the strike when Sydney Barnes was bowling. Taylor did, and scored 91 and 100 for Natal in MCC's only loss on their 1913-14 tour. A batsman of superb technique, and by all accounts - even EW Swanton's - a bloody good bloke.

AB de Villiers
A dasher, smasher, crasher and basher, who is as adept at sending the ball scything through the covers as stopping it from doing so. Has a handy sideline in keeping wicket. If this cricket gig doesn't work out, there's always the pro golf circuit.

We'll be publishing an all-time South Africa XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your middle-order batsmen click here

Telford Vice made his Test debut as a cricket writer in Barbados in 1992 - the match that marked the end of South Africa's isolation

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Posted by Curlybrownitem on (November 27, 2009, 23:30 GMT)

I have to express astonishment at all the comments in favour of Hanse Cronje. As a batsman, his main "claim to fame" was that he played Warne probably as well as anyone, taking the attack to him and ensuring he hit the rare bad balls to the boundary - unlike many who let the great man get away with the odd loose one without taking full advantage. He was, however, a poor player of quick bowling (especially for a South African) and an average of 36 says it all. But irrespective of his playing limitations, I find it hard to see how anyone who would claim to love this greatest of games could possibly consider him for an all too obvious reason, an act that would rule him out of my XI even if he'd been as good as Pollock.

Posted by MaraudingJ on (November 27, 2009, 20:09 GMT)

South African cricket has always been blessed with an overabundance of three things: allrounders, fast bowlers, and middle order geniuses. The list above could be expanded to double its size and it would still be a tough pick. But when I say "a tough pick", I mean picking the backups. It seems almost a travesty to not be able to pick a guy like Herbie Taylor, but the simple fact is that we're faced in this list -- if I may be so bold as to overlook Barry Richards for a minute -- with the three best batsmen South Africa has ever produced on the Test stage. Those three men are (in terms of statistics over a span of 15 or more Tests, series-by-series contexts, correlation with South African cricket's greatest achievements, and first-hand anecdotal account by those who witnessed their play): Jacques Kallis; Graeme Pollock; Dudley Nourse. After that comes an even more difficult task: deciding their order in the batting lineup!

Posted by P.J.T. on (November 27, 2009, 17:11 GMT)

Given the format: I'd like Taylor to open with Richards. Then I can have Nourse, Pollock and Kallis in the middle order. I hope I get a chance to select Irvine as w/k - he is probably worth a shout in the middle order just as a batsman.

Given the versatility of the SA players, one could consider Kallis for the allrounder slot, Procter at 8 to open the bowling, and then leave Mitchell as opener and Taylor at 3. Forcing us to select players in particular slots will not allow for the best side to be chosen.

Posted by sabbir_ahmed_sajib on (November 27, 2009, 6:07 GMT)

are you kidding?A B is nominated and Collin bland is not ! if A B is eligible then so is Ashwell Prince and Hashim Amla. Prince has a far better record than A B. Prince - 11 century in 48 tests with average of 47. A B - 9 century in 53 tests with average of 43. Whenever S A is in trouble Prince stands like a rock . most of his centuries are scored when other batters ( including A B ) fails miserably . His record in bowling friendly pitches is superb. Anyway here is my team = 1. Barry Richards , 2 . Graeme Smith , 3 . Graeme Pollock , 4. Dudley Nourse , 5 . Jack Kallis , 6 . Aubrey Faulkner , 7 . John Waite , 8 . Mike Proctor , 9 . Shaun Pollock , 10 . Allan Donald ,11 . Hugh tayfield .12 Th man Colin Bland.

Posted by DWP1 on (November 26, 2009, 18:20 GMT)

Those people surprised at not seeing Hansie Cronje's name on the list simply need to look at his average of 36 to know why. When you compare that to players like Kallis and Pollock it really is not even close. Even a player like Ashwell Prince far eclipses Hansie's record. Hansie was an good batsmen and a useful bowler, but captaincy aside he probably wasn't a GREAT player, which is what this list is about. As for AB: I think it's a little early to have him on this list, even if most of us will be surprised if he doesn't end his career as one of SAs greats. However if the list was based on potential then a few of the isolation era players could perhaps rather have been included.

Posted by bays17 on (November 26, 2009, 10:26 GMT)

Personally I am a huge AB fan but at the moment I dont think he deserves to be there. In say three or four years he should almost be a certainty but hardly now, as he has only recently got his average above 40. His fielding does definately add to his credentials but you dont pick a middle order for fielding. Will be a superstar in a few years though but isnt quite there yet!

Posted by L.Pearce on (November 26, 2009, 8:29 GMT)

1 G.Smith 2 H.Gibbs 3 J.Kallis 4 AB de Villiers 5 D.Cullinan 6 S.Pollock 7 M.Boucher 8 N.Boje 9 D.Steyn 10 A.Donald 11 M.Ntini Just a pre-selective list of the greatest modern South Africans in my opinion. Tough not to include the likes of Kirsten, Klusener, Rhodes etc. Please post comments ASAP and let me know what you think. P.S. All opinions welcomed! =)

Posted by kailash1987 on (November 26, 2009, 6:20 GMT)

Hi everboby. My ALL Time XI : 1) Garry Kristen. 2) Barry Richards. 3) Daryll Cullinan 4) J Kallis 5) Hanse Cronje 6) Graeme Pollock 7) AB de Villiers 8) Shun Pollock 9) Mark Boucher 10) Styne 11) Donald 7)

Posted by Optimistix on (November 25, 2009, 20:02 GMT)

Having De Villiers in here is even more ridiculous than having Atherton as a potential opener for the English all time XI.

Were the panelists influenced by Obama's Nobel, perchance?

Posted by amoghv on (November 25, 2009, 17:29 GMT)

Why is Cronje not even considered? As much as I love watching AB bat, Cronje was a class apart altogether.

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Telford ViceClose
Telford Vice Telford Vice, crash-boom-out left-hand bat, sort-of legspinner, was never sure whether he was a cricket person. He thought he might be when he sidestepped a broken laptop and an utter dearth of experience to cover South Africa's first Test match in 22 years in Barbados in 1992. When he managed to complete Peter Kirsten's biography as well as retain what he calls his sanity, he pondered the question again. Similarly, when he made it through the 2007 World Cup - all of it, including the warm-up matches - his case for belonging to cricket's family felt stronger. But it was only when the World Twenty20 exploded gloriously into his life in 2007 that he knew he actually wanted to be a cricket person. Sort of ...

South Africa Jury

Luke Alfred
Sports editor of the Sunday Times in Johannesburg; author of Lifting the Covers: the Inside Story of South African Cricket and Testing Times: The Story of the Men Who Made SA Cricket
XI: Smith, Richards, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, S Pollock, Goddard, Tayfield, Donald
Ali Bacher
Ali Bacher
Captained South Africa in 1970, when they defeated Australia 4-0; was managing director of the South African cricket board through the 1990s, and executive director of the 2003 World Cup.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Colin Bryden
Colin Bryden
Editor of the Mutual & Federal SA Cricket Annual; has reported on more than 130 Test matches.
XI: Richards, Barlow, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Archie Henderson
Archie Henderson
Sports editor of the Times in South Africa; formerly sports editor of the Cape Times and the Argus in Cape Town. Has been a journalist since 1967.
XI: Richards, Smith, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Procter, Lindsay, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Rob Houwing
Rob Houwing
Chief writer for and formerly editor of the Wisden Cricketer (South African edition).
XI: Richards, Smith, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Barlow, Procter, Boucher, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Rudi Koertzen
Rudi Koertzen
Has umpired at Test level for 17 years - seven of those on the ICC's elite panel - standing in over 100 Tests (the second umpire to do so) and 200 ODIs.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Barlow, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp
Broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency; has covered more than 40 tours and 120 Test matches since South Africa's return to International cricket. Author of a biography of Gary Kirsten.
XI: Richards, Smith, Nourse, G Pollock, Kallis, Barlow, Boucher, Faulkner, Procter, S Pollock, Donald
Krish Reddy
One of South Africa's foremost cricket historians and statisticians, and a cricket book and autograph collector; co-author of a history of South African cricket with Andre Odendaal and Christopher Merritt.
XI: Richards, Taylor, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Procter, Cameron, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Andrew Samson
Andrew Samson
Cricket South Africa's official statistician since 1994; has covered over 130 Test matches for radio and TV as scorer/statistician.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Telford Vice
Telford Vice
Cricket writer since 1992, when he covered South Africa's first Test on readmission, in Barbados; author of a biography of Peter Kirsten.
XI: Richards, Smith, Goddard, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Boucher, S Pollock, Tayfield, Ntini, Donald

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