We were fortunate enough to attend the inaugural lunch of the Wisden 150 Club at the Kennington Oval earlier this week where Michael Atherton and Allan Donald relived their memorable contretemps at Trent Bridge in 1998 as well as other notable encounters between the two.
Whilst the Chatham House Rule prevents us from divulging what Messrs Atherton and Donald actually said whilst we enjoyed a glass or two of a rather fine Bordeaux, we were reminded that clashes between South Africa and England tend to be extremely close.
Think back to 1994 where Devon Malcolm’s nine for 57 squared the series at The Oval, or 1995 where after four drawn Tests including Atherton’s famous 185 not out at the Wanderers South Africa prevailed in the final Test at Cape Town. Three years later in England, the home side came back from one-nil down to take the last two Tests and the series. Then in 2003, having ended Nasser Hussain’s reign as skipper and scoring double hundreds in each of the first two Tests, Graeme Smith saw his side pegged back at The Oval to see the series end two Tests apiece.
England then won another close series in South Africa in 2004/05 as they toned up for a titanic Ashes series six months later. The two-one score-line was reversed in the summer of 2008 when Smith finally led his side to a series win in England and saw the back of another home skipper in the shape of Michael Vaughan. Finally, in 2009/10, England somehow escaped with a drawn series having secured thrilling nine-wicket down draws at Centurion and Newlands.
By now you probably get the picture – England and South Africa Test series are always close and if anything this upcoming series could be the closest yet as there does not appear to be a hair’s breadth between the sides. Whilst the series is scandalously being played over just three Tests – especially as it pits the best two teams in the world against each other (forget the updated ICC rankings published at the weekend, which surely erroneously placed Australia at number two), a thrilling contest awaits.
As the home side, England probably just have the edge, but an opposition containing batsmen such as Smith, the classy Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and the underrated AB De Villiers plus a bowling attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir will provide Andrew Strauss’ team with an almighty Test.
After a seemingly never-ending diet of Twenty 20 and fifty over cricket, the series cannot come soon enough even if the biblically bad weather will no doubt rear its ugly head. We’re so excited, we’ve even started updating this blog again!
If you like this, follow us on Twitter @thereversesweep