First Test Match


Toss: South Africa.

Australia began the series billed as Test cricket's unofficial championship by recording their second biggest victory in 60 Tests against South Africa, who had not lost by an innings since England won at Durban in 1964-65. The match will be remembered for a record-breaking stand between Steve Waugh and Greg Blewett, which spread across three days.

South Africa recalled Rhodes and Kallis, and preferred Hudson as an opener to Bacher; McMillan was unfit. With Reiffel also injured, Australia promoted Gillespie to share the new ball with McGrath, playing Bevan at No. 7 and Healy at No. 8, which theoretically left them a bowler short. But the quality of the bowlers they did have meant Australia were always in charge; 12 of the game's 13 sessions were one-way traffic.

McGrath brilliantly exploited all-too-familiar South African top-order weaknesses in an opening spell of 10-4-10-3 and South Africa slumped to 195 for 8. Only Cronje's 76 represented any worthwhile resistance - until Richardson enhanced his record as the patron saint of apparently lost causes. He hit an unbeaten 72 from 87 balls, including ten fours and a six, to steer his side to a respectable 302 - still at least 100 under par on a good pitch. Only when Richardson was shepherding Donald and Adams through partnerships of 58 and 49 did Australia seem to miss a third pace bowler. Healy backed up McGrath and Gillespie with five catches.

Opening Australia's innings next morning, Taylor was unlucky to play on against Pollock. Otherwise, the much vaunted South African pace attack made little impression on an unusually slow pitch, although Donald did bounce out Mark Waugh and the left-hander Elliott - whose elegant off-side play was reminiscent of David Gower - in three balls. That brought in Blewett to join Steve Waugh. Shortly afterwards, rain forced an early close, but next day they rewrote the record books, becoming only the tenth pair of Test batsmen to bat throughout a day. The previous duo watched from the dressing-room - their captain, Taylor, and coach, Geoff Marsh, who scored 301 on the first day of the Trent Bridge Test in 1989.

On the third, wicketless, day, Blewett scored a remorseless 153, and Waugh 123. Waugh's was his 12th hundred in 87 Tests, and Blewett's his third in 14, in which he had also made 99 and four other fifties. Waugh suffered leg cramps after tea but refused to go off, and that final session was worth 101 off 29 overs, following 93 and 94. Blewett's driving and pulling were a revelation, and his 214, in 519 minutes and 421 balls, with 34 fours, beat the previous highest Test score on the ground - Mike Atherton's unbeaten 185, 15 months earlier. Waugh scored 160, in 501 minutes and 366 balls, with 22 fours. When he fell, they had added 385, the second-biggest partnership for the fifth wicket in any Test and the best for any wicket against South Africa, surpassing the 370 by Bill Edrich and Denis Compton at Lord's in 1947.

Taylor's declaration gave his bowlers a minimum of 138 overs to take ten wickets, but they needed only half that. Kallis defended well for almost three hours, but the force was still with Steve Waugh. He ran Hudson out brilliantly and had Cronje caught down the leg side. After that, Warne and Bevan were unstoppable. The last seven wickets fell for 40, with Bevan taking the last four for two runs in 12 balls - two caught at short leg and two bowled. His quickish left-arm wrist-spin was as much a mystery to the batsmen as the wiles of Shane Warne; their combined match figures of 87.4-28-207-12 contrasted vividly with those of Adams, who took one for 163.

Disappointing crowds, amounting to less than 60,000, sat mostly in silence as their side were thrashed. Changes for the Second Test were inevitable.

Men of the Match: G. S. Blewett and S. R. Waugh. Attendance: 57,370.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 302; Second day, Australia 191-4 (S. R. Waugh 14*, G. S. Blewett 3*); Third day, Australia 479-4 (S. R. Waugh 137*, G. S. Blewett 156*); Fourth day, South Africa 99-4 ( J. H. Kallis 29*, J. N. Rhodes 3*).

© John Wisden & Co