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5 moments from African Derby Test history

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South_Africa_Zimbabwe_Test_CricketHistory is about to be made in South Africa. The first ever four day Test match will begin on Boxing Day when the Proteas take on their neighbours from the north, Zimbabwe. What’s more, the game will be a day-night affair using a pink ball for 98 overs per day.

This one-off match could herald a new dawn for Test cricket. In an age where Test attendances are at record lows outside of India, Australia and England, and more and more youngsters are turning to the glitz and palatable length of T20 cricket, some out of the box thinking is needed to inject much needed life in to the longest format of the game.

But before we go hurtling into future, we thought we’d take a look back in time by choosing some memorable moments that have stood out from the 8 Tests between these African rivals.

1. Baptism of White Lightning – Harare, 1995

Zimbabwe had already played 12 Tests before Hansie Cronje’s South Africans arrived for the first encounter between the two nations in a one off game in October 1995. Zimbabwe had faced some stiff opposition including India and New Zealand and were buoyed by a recent first Test victory, hammering Pakistan by an innings and 64 runs on the same ground thanks to Grant Flower’s unbeaten 201 and a further 156 from his brother Andy. Though they lost that series 2-1, their batsmen had gained invaluable experience facing up to the likes of Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed.

But nothing could prepare them for Allan ‘White Lightning’ Donald, who hurled thunderbolts down in a career best 8-71 in the second innings to go along with 3-42 in the first.

Brett Schultz played a telling role in the first innings with a return of 4-54 to help bowl Zimbabwe out for 170 and Cronje knocked off the winning runs in an unbeaten 56 to claim a comprehensive 7 wicket victory for his team, but there was no mistaking who was the star of the show. The Zimbabwean batsmen had finally come up against fearsome raw pace and they were ill equipped to handle it.

2. Andy blossoms in wilting cause – Harare, 2001

It’s not often a player is awarded the man of the match in a losing cause, but few could argue with the decision to hand the accolade to Andy Flower after his individual heroics in September 2001.

After watching Gary Kirsten (201), Herchelle Gibbs (147) and Jacques Kallis (157 not-out) hammer his bowlers for 139 overs to amass 600-3d, Flower then strode to the crease with his team in trouble at 51-3.

The elegant left-hander counter attacked and battled his way to 142 and was the last wicket to fall with the score on 286.

Following on, Flower was more circumspect in his second dig and was left stranded on 199 not-out as wickets tumbled around him. Though Zimbabwe would reach a respectable total of 391 it was not enough as South Africa breezed past their target of 79 with the loss of just 1 wicket.

Flower ended the match with a combined haul of 341 runs after 879 minutes at the crease but was short of able partners at the other end. His man of the match award was one of five he earned in a losing team.

3. What could have been for Kallis – Bulawayo, 2001

On a flat track in Bulawayo, six batsmen knocked off half centuries in a game that fizzled out to a dull draw with only 20 wickets falling across all five days.

Towering above the lacklustre action was Jacques Kallis who, in characteristic fashion, was unflustered and patient while occupying the crease for 581 minutes and 443 deliveries for his 189 non-out.

With the prospect of a result quickly fading, skipper Shaun Pollock declared with his star batsman 11 runs short of a maiden double ton.

How could he have known that Kallis, and his adoring fans, would have to wait a further 3380 days until the great all-rounder would get the monkey off his back against India in Centurion in 2010? Had Pollock known the wait would be so long, perhaps he would have delayed his declaration by a few more overs.

4. Zimbabwe blown away – Cape Town, 2005

Every now and then, Newlands offers up a pitch that reduces batsmen to cannon fodder and turns even the most pedestrian bowler into an unplayable demon. In 2011 South Africa were bundled out for just 96 but turned around and had Australia packing for 47 all out. In 2013, New Zealand were skittled for 45 inside 20 overs. Back in 2005 was Zimbabwe’s time to be humiliated.

Jacques Kallis collected four wickets with Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini bagged three each as Zimbabwe were dismantled for 54 after winning the toss. Opener Stuart Matsikenyeri was the only batsman to reach double figures with a top score of 12, while extras contributed more than six of his teammates with 4.

Graeme Smith (121) and AB de Villiers (98) couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about in an opening partnership of 217 that amplified the gulf in class between the two teams.

Few sides can come back from such an abject display with the bat and Zimbabwe duly lost by an innings and 21 runs. Their score remains the 8th lowest since 2000, the 19th lowest since 1900 and the 29th lowest of all time.

5. A glimmer of hope, tarnished dreams – Centurion, 2005

Monde Zondeki had endured a tough start to his Test career, suffering from multiple injuries to his lithe and agile young body that was capable of delivering a cricket ball at real pace. Furthermore, expectations and pressures were high as South Africa was still waiting for the next black African star after Makhaya Ntini’s meteoric rise seven years earlier.

Before Zondeki, Mfunenko Ngam’s career was cruelly cut short to just 3 Tests as a result of recurring stress fractures. With Zondeki returning from a side strain that had kept him out of the side since the tour of England two years earlier, many watched with bated breath as he steamed into the Zimbabwean batsman.

He was handy in the first innings, picking up 3-66 before Ashwell Prince’s maiden Test century gave South Africa a first innings lead of 211. That was more than enough for Zondeki who ripped through the visiting batsmen on a lively wicket to end with a career best of 6-39, which earned him the man of the match award.

Zondeki would only play another 4 Tests, as he struggled with fitness issues. This match offered a glimmer of what could have been but ultimately will be remembered for the tarnished dreams of a young bowler who, like Ngam before him, showed so much promise in a brief career.

 

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Daniel is a freelance sports journalist from Johannesburg who would always rather be watching Test ...

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