Two tribes go to Waugh
South Africa in Australia, 1997-98
The rivalry that crackles between these southern hemisphere siblings was abundantly fuelled on this tour. Hansie Cronje gouged the ball with his spikes, while Mark Waugh walked into his stumps in the final Test and either got away with it (if you ask South Africans) or was rightfully ruled not out (according to every Aussie). South Africa won five of seven one-day internationals against Australia, but their two losses came in the finals. No wonder Cronje put a stump through a door.
Pat Symcox (South Africa offspinner): You felt the weight of history, not least because of the presence of people like Ian Chappell, who had been on the South African tour in 1970 and averaged about 11. We were part of that history, and you wanted to make sure you pulled your weight. There was a lot to take out of the '97-98 tour, particularly on the emotional side of things. The technical and physical aspects are part of the game, you can prepare for that. But you didn't know what was going to happen to you at an emotional level.
Ian Healy (Australia wicketkeeper): The feeling between the sides was pretty good I think. Obviously there was bad blood between Daryll Cullinan and Shane Warne and I think Cullinan might have been in tears in Melbourne. They were at it all the time.
Shaun Pollock (South Africa fast bowler): Australia is a tough tour, and it does get mentally difficult towards the end. To have the last few breaks not going our way didn't help. The guys tended to get along pretty well off the field. There was obviously a bit of heat between Daryll and Shane, I don't think they chatted much. Quite a few of them kept to themselves. But some of their more outgoing guys always had a beer after the game.
Stuart MacGill (Australia legspinner): After the warm-up game [against Australia A at Brisbane, which was drawn] they were not dismissive exactly but very, very comfortable and casual about how they would go. I remember thinking, 'God, these guys have judged their whole summer based on an absolute belter in Brisbane and that's not how it's going to be at all'.
Jacques Kallis (South Africa allrounder): It was at the start of my career and it wasn't an easy entry for me. It turned to be a hell of an eventful tour. In fact, every one since then has been pretty boring by comparison!
South Africa escaped with a draw in the first Test at Melbourne, where Cronje was booed to the crease because of his dirty dancing on the ball during an earlier ODI at Sydney and Kallis announced himself with a maiden century. But there was nowhere to hide at Sydney, where Australia won by an innings.
Symcox: Melbourne was all about survival. Three days later, we started the second Test. We were worn down and then they put us back under pressure immediately in Sydney. Hell, we fought hard. I remember leaving Sydney thinking, `What else can we do?' We played nine days of Test cricket in 11, and were under the whip for eight of those nine. It was bloody hard.
And so to Adelaide. Injury ruled out Allan Donald so the strike bowler's mantle was passed to the callow Pollock. Australia handed a debut to MacGill.
Pollock: It was all a bit nerve-racking, I was going to lead the attack for the first time. But I was also pretty excited because I felt I had been bowling well throughout the tour.
MacGill: Lance Klusener, who is renowned for being a determined, strong, silent type, before the Test match, off his own bat completely, came up to me and said congratulations on being picked. He was the only one in their team, I might add.
South Africa won the toss, and Adam Bacher and Gary Kirsten took advantage of an Australian attack minus the injured Glenn McGrath and Paul Reiffel and shared 102 runs in the first session. Australia held the visitors to 305 for 7 midway through the second day. South Africa's fate rested in Brian McMillan's hands. He was ably supported by the lower order, and 212 runs were added for the last three wickets. No. 11 Symcox scored 54 off 42 balls.
Symcox: McMillan was saying, `Block the shit out of it, let's not get out here'. And I thought, `What the hell is this? What are you talking about?'
Day three, and a hot wind whipped temperatures to 39ºC. Pollock bowled 29 overs and took 6 for 62 on his way to a haul of 7 for 87. Australia were dismissed a day later still 167 in the red, with Mark Taylor's 169 not out marking the end of a long drought for the Australian captain. Symcox questioned why he was allowed only 13.5 overs.
Symcox: I'm not adding another twist to it, I'm just saying it was very strange. We scored 517, and they bowled spinners. Then, when we bowled, I remember wondering, `What the hell's going on here?' It was in 1998, after all.
Kirsten's 108 not out steadied South Africa's second innings and the declaration left Australia a target of 361 from 107 overs. Matthew Elliott and Taylor were gone before the close and Mark Waugh should have been caught.
Symcox: The second ball he faced, he pushed forward and was dropped at short leg by Adam Bacher off my bowling. I've watched it on video many times, it went straight in and straight out. And he got a hundred to save the Test! I took a blinder (in the gully to dismiss Ricky Ponting) and I dropped an easier one (Steve Waugh). We dropped a lot of catches in that game.
Controversy reigned on the final day as a bouncer from Pollock hit Mark Waugh above the elbow, causing him to wheel away and clip his wicket with his bat. There were eight overs left in the match, Australia were six wickets down and Waugh was on 107.
Pollock: He summed it up when he said his arm went numb and he lost control of the bat. If a batsman loses control and hits the stumps, that's out. That was a crucial blow for us. We weren't sure what had happened at first. The ball looped up to gully. So we were appealing for the catch. We weren't sure whether it had hit his arm only or his glove as well. It went to the third umpire, and the guys in the dressing room were signalling that he was out. Then the verdict came back as not out.
MacGill: When he got hit, knowing the way he carried himself, all of us saw him playing the stroke and then just sort of flopping around and carrying on a bit because it hurt. None of us really thought there was an issue until the South Africans raised it. And then we were a bit nervous because we didn't know how the umpires would respond. I don't believe it was controversial at all.
Healy: It was well after the shot and it wasn't part of the shot when the wicket was broken. I was of the opinion it was the right decision.
Kallis: I was in the covers, and I thought it was, umm, very close to being out. I don't think too many of us were too interested in inviting him out for dinner after that. There were harsh words. But if you're going to play like that, if you're not going to walk in those circumstances, then you must expect the opposition to come hard at you.
Waugh, who batted brilliantly, survived. As did Australia. It was all too much for Cronje, and as he passed the umpires' dressing room he used a souvenir stump to communicate his feelings.
Symcox: We all saw it, and there were no objections because we were all pretty unhappy. It was a game of bad blood between South Africa and Australia. The Mark Waugh incident was really bad. There was no doubt he was out, we all knew. It's water under the bridge now, but at that stage of South Africa's development as a team, it was quite critical.
MacGill: We kind of thought it was a bit funny because you love seeing the opposition frustrated. He lost it and denied doing it.
Healy: It came out that Hansie didn't own up at the time. A team management letter from the South Africans was the only apology. We thought at the time that it was a bit soft.
Pollock: We knew we had worked hard and dominated the Test match from day one. We also played good cricket throughout the one-day series, but we didn't manage to win that either. Dave Richardson's retirement was the culmination of a long tour that ended without much having gone our way.
This article was first published in the January 2006 issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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