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New Zealand's third tour of South Africa, and first for 33 years, began promisingly, with a well-crafted win in the First Test at Johannesburg, but ended with their squad in disarray. They lost the next two Tests to become the first side since Australia against England in 1888 to lose a three-match series after being ahead. They also failed to win one of their six one-day internationals in the quadrangular Mandela Trophy, and returned to New Zealand to face a barrage of criticism.
The recriminations intensified when Matthew Hart, Dion Nash, Stephen Fleming and Chris Pringle were all suspended - the first three for smoking cannabis, Pringle for unspecified misbehaviour. Manager Michael Sandlant and coach Geoff Howarth resigned in mid-January. Captain Ken Rutherford, who twice fell foul of ICC referee Peter Burge, was sacked after the home season degenerated into a series of traumas. Leading the critics in this series was Sir Richard Hadlee, who was commentating for New Zealand television and attacked the team's lack of discipline. The criticism was difficult to refute: the performances in the Durban and Cape Town Tests bordered on the suicidal.
Senior players were not exempt: Martin Crowe and Rutherford set the tone with six dismissals from short deliveries between them, in situations which cried out for applied defence. Adam Parore, Bryan Young, Shane Thomson and the promising Fleming also perished to injudicious hooks and pulls fed by intelligent bowling from the home pace attack, well instructed by new coach Bob Woolmer.
Thomson was the only New Zealander to average over 40 in the series. Fleming was just short but every other batsman, including Crowe and Rutherford, was below 30. Those two aggregated only 290 in their 12 Test innings; one major performance from each would have prevented one, if not both Test defeats. It has to be said that Crowe was carrying a knee injury so inhibiting that he was an embarrassment in the field. As for batting, he could venture only the safest of singles. Apart from his opening innings of 83, he never threatened to score the century he needed to become the first batsman to reach a hundred against the other eight Test-playing countries.
Young was obdurate, particularly at Kingsmead when his 51, the third-slowest half-century ever made in Test cricket, deserved to save the game. Parore contrived to run himself out twice in bizarre circumstances, but still advanced his claims as a genuine top-order Test batsman. Fleming was one of the few to improve throughout the tour; these players, together with Thomson, pace bowler Nash and left-arm spinner Hart offered a nucleus for the future.
New Zealand were not helped by injuries nor by crucial decisions which went against them. The overseas independent umpires did not inspire confidence; three different visiting members of the panel stood in the series, which spoiled the continuity, as well as wasting money.
South Africa were playing their first home Tests since readmission to world cricket without Kepler Wessels. He had resigned the captaincy in early November to concentrate on his batting, but a recurring knee injury kept him out of the team and he announced his retirement from the international game before the Second Test. His successor, Hansie Cronje, was the most consistent batsman in the top half of the order and proved himself as a leader by presiding over the recovery after Johannesburg. The bowling continued to depend on pace, despite the absence of Allan Donald with a foot injury; Fanie de Villiers, South Africa's most successful bowler of 1994, put in some outstanding spells for 20 wickets at 20.05. But the player of the series was the wicket-keeper, Dave Richardson. With Donald missing, he became South Africa's only ever-present in their 20 Tests since readmission and reinforced his claims to be considered the world's foremost wicket-keeper/batsman with 247 runs at 82.33, including his maiden Test hundred, as well as 16 catches. His batting was the more creditable in that he usually came in at No. 7 or 8 with his side in trouble.
The United Cricket Board of South Africa triumphed on three fronts. An astute marketing policy, involving a gradual reduction of admission prices throughout each day's play, attracted healthy crowds; over 150,000 watched the three Tests. The large proportion of youngsters, previously strangers to five-day cricket, was particularly encouraging to the Board, who had been criticised for undue devotion to one-day cricket. Secondly, the technological assistance available via the third umpire was improved. There were four cameras, rather than two, bolted to brackets and operated automatically as for a racing photo-finish. With one camera square to each batting crease on either side, the chance of a fielder masking the action was mostly eliminated. The system could break down a replay to half a frame - one-fiftieth part of a second. The Board also equipped umpires with walkie-talkies.
Most important of all was the enterprise shown by both countries' administrators, in agreeing that the ICC mandatory minimum of 90 overs per day meant just that and could not be reduced by recalculating the overs after a change of innings. That removed the incentive for the side at a disadvantage on the fourth day to slow down play.
Another small piece of cricket history came when referee Burge, on instructions from ICC, began supervising each Test match toss. This edict followed an apparent linguistic misunderstanding between Rutherford and Salim Malik in Auckland in February 1994.
K. R. Rutherford (Otago) (captain), M. D. Crowe (Wellington) (vice-captain), R. P. De Groen (Northern Districts), S. B. Doull (Northern Districts), S. P. Fleming (Canterbury), L. K. Germon (Canterbury), C. Z. Harris (Canterbury), M. N. Hart (Northern Districts), B. R. Hartland (Canterbury), D. J. Murray (Canterbury), D. J. Nash (Northern Districts), A. C. Parore (Auckland), C. Pringle (Auckland), M. L. Su'a (Auckland), S. A. Thomson (Northern Districts), B. A. Young (Northern Districts).
M. W. Priest (Canterbury) joined the party for the Mandela Trophy and D. K. Morrison (Auckland), originally omitted because of injury, replaced the injured Nash.
Manager: M. Sandlant. Coach: G. P. Howarth.
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