South African cricket in 2003

19 December 2003

The year 2003 must go down as a disappointing one for South African cricket. The reason is simple: the Proteas failed to make the Super Sixes in the World Cup that was played on home soil early in the year.

Player of the year: Shaun Pollock
It is very tempting to give this award to Graeme Smith, but, apart from a great Test series against England, he wasn’t as consistent as Pollock.

In fact, Pollock was something special in that series, despite missing one Test. He scored 205 runs at 66.38 and also claimed 17 wickets (second most in the series) at an average of 24.70, while most bowlers struggled not only to take wickets, but to keep their average below 30.

A four-time South African cricketer of the year, Pollock ended 2003 ranked in the top two bowlers in world cricket. Even during a below-par World Cup, the KwaZulu-Natal star stood out, capturing eight wickets for 172 runs, for a miserly rate of 3.58. If only the rest of the bowling attack could have produced something similar.

On top of this, even after he lost the national team captaincy following the World Cup, he continued to maintain his high standards and set a good example for the rest of the team.

Newcomer of the year: Jacques Rudolph
Rudolph certainly exploded onto the international scene, hitting an unbeaten 222 in his Test debut against Bangladesh. It was the second highest score on debut in Test history.

He had a below-par Test series in England, but was competent in the Nat West one-day series against England and Zimbabwe, averaging nearly 57. By the end of 2003, the Northerns Titans left-handed batsman could boast good and similar averages in both the one-day and Test game. His ODI average stood at 41.67, while his Test average was slightly better at 42.50.

A very correct batsman with excellent powers of concentration, Rudolph should become a long-time fixture in the South African team, either at number three or a little lower down the order.

Test batsman of the year: Graeme Smith
Gary Kirsten was a little more consistent, but Smith played some extraordinary innings during 2003, showing a real appetite for runs and the priceless ability to convert hundreds into big hundreds.

Against Pakistan early in the year he made 180. Then, in England, he made double-centuries in successive Tests, a South African Test record 277 at Edgbaston, followed by 259 at Lords. He demonstrated fantastic guts and concentration, showing that he’s always up for a good fight. On the evidence of his form this early in his career, Smith should go on to be a world-beater and plenty more big centuries appear a certainty.

Special mention: Gary Kirsten
Looking back on it, it seems ludicrous to think that Kirsten’s international career was precariously poised at the beginning of 2003. However, as he has done throughout his career, the gritty left-hander rose to the challenge, scoring runs at crucial times to secure his place in the team.

He chose to retire from one-day internationals after South Africa’s disappointing exit from the World Cup, but by the end of 2003 he was in the minds of many the most important batsman in the South African team. Not only did Kirsten deliver runs in all types of conditions, but he also had a calming influence on his younger less-experienced teammates.

His contribution in 2003 included over 800 Test runs, scored at 67.33, including a brilliant 130 in the fourth Test against England that was decisive in South Africa’s victory.

Best Test innings: Herschelle Gibbs
With four double centuries scored by South African batsmen during the course of 2003 there were more than enough candidates for this honour.

Smith’s South African record of 277 against England at Edgbaston was a great effort and certainly worthy of cracking the nod, but I’m rooting for Gibbs’s magnificent 228 against Pakistan in Cape Town in January. He was in imperious form, lambasting the Pakistani bowling attack to all corners of the Newlands ground, smashing 29 fours and six sixes. He needed only 240 balls to score those runs!

Special mention: Graeme Smith
It might seem ridiculous not to honour a record-breaking effort with my pick as innings of the year, but then again it’s my pick, whether you agree with it or not. Either of Smith’s double-centuries against England is deserving of special mention in this slot.

I will go for his record-setting 277 at Edgbaston, which took him a minute over nine hours to compile. Having said that, his 259 might have been an even better innings!

Test bowler of the year: Shaun Pollock
During the course of the year Pollock joined the 300 Test wicket club, achieving the milestone at the lowest average in history. Makhaya Ntini claimed more wickets, but not many more, and Pollock’s wickets came at over 10 runs a wicket cheaper.

A master at applying pressure, Pollock conceded only 2.2 runs per over. Some say he has lost his edge – and it is true that he doesn’t bowl with the pace that he once did – but the results are as good as ever. In fact, his average in 2003 was under 20, better than his career average.

Special mention: Makhaya Ntini
Ntini stepped up as the career of the great Allan Donald wound down, providing Pollock with a classy new-ball bowling partner.

The Border pace man was superb against Pakistan early in the year, capturing 13 wickets in only two Tests to pick up the man of the series award. Later in the year, against England, he was the top wicket taker on either side in the five-Test series. During the second Test at Lords – which South Africa won by an innings and 92 runs – he became the first South African to capture 10 wickets in a match at the home of cricket.

Throughout the year Ntini showed a fantastic appetite for the game, with bountiful energy and a great work ethic. He bowled with controlled aggression and enthusiasm and established himself as a true strike bowler.

Best Test bowling: Jacques Kallis
It was a tough year for Kallis, whose father died from cancer, but he turned in a brilliant spell of bowling in the fourth Test against England at Headingley to help South Africa to a 191-run win. The Western Province all-rounder knocked over three for 38 in the first innings, then, in the second innings, he produced the best Test bowling of the year to claim six for 54.

Kallis bowled with good pace, aggression, and tremendous movement to have the English batsmen in trouble and unable to cope with his testing line. It was impressive stuff from Kallis at his best.

Special mention: Makhaya Ntini
Ntini was the only South African to capture 10 wickets in a match in 2003 and he certainly did it in the right place: Lords. His achievement will forever be stored in history on an honours board at the home of cricket.

His five for 75 in the first innings helped restrict England to 173 all out on a very good batting pitch, thus setting up the Proteas for a big win. His five for 145 in the second innings was a whole-hearted effort as the English fought hard to save the match on a wicket that played easier and easier.

Best Test performance of the year: 2nd Test vs Pakistan at Newlands, 2 – 5 January 2003
South Africa seized control of this Test from the opening ball to totally dominate Pakistan and win the game inside four days.

Batting first, the Proteas hit 620 for seven at 4.6 runs an over as Smith and Gibbs set a new South African Test record for any wicket with an opening stand of 368.

The bowlers then backed up the batsmen well, dismissing the Pakistanis for 252 and 226 to record an emphatic victory by an innings and 142 runs. Pollock and Ntini picked up four wickets each in the first innings and Ntini followed that up with a second four-wicket haul in the second innings.

Special mention: 4th Test vs England at Headingley, 21 – 25 August 2003
The huge victory in the second Test at Lords – by an innings and 92 runs – is probably the match that will be best remembered from the five-Test series between England and South Africa. But, the Proteas’ 191-run win in the fourth Test was a far tougher contest that was actually considerably closer than the final victory margin suggested.

There were a number of truly outstanding performances from South Africans during the course of the match: Kirsten’s 130 out of a total of 342 on a testing pitch was an innings of the highest class and of inestimable value in South Africa’s ultimate victory. Then, the unexpected support he received from Monde Zondeki, who hit 59 while batting at number nine, was fantastic.

Kallis generated excellent movement in England’s first innings to capture three for 38, including the key wickets of Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher and Ed Smith. In South Africa’s second innings Kirsten delivered again with a solid knock of 60 and Andrew Hall tore the English attack apart with a brilliant, hard-hitting and unbeaten 99 to take the game beyond England.

To wrap it all up Kallis produced another great bowling performance to claim six for 54 as England slid to 209 all out. It was a complete performance in trying conditions and it represented Test cricket at its best.

Worst Test match performance of the year: 5th Test vs England at the Oval, 4 – 8 September 2003
Heading into this match South Africa led the five-Test series 2-1 and needed only a draw to secure a series victory on English soil. At the end of day one the Proteas were on 362 for four and in a strong position to play England out of the match.

They went on to make 484, but somehow managed to lose the game from there by the unbelievable margin of nine wickets. A poor fielding performance allowed England to take a first innings lead as they amassed 604 for nine declared.

Then, on a good batting strip, the Proteas folded in their second innings, making just 229 as Neil McKenzie top scored with 38. That left England needing only 110 for a series-tying victory and they managed that easily, for the loss of only one wicket. It was a very disappointing performance from South Africa, especially in the light of all the hard work that had gone into the first four Tests to put the team into a position to win the series.

Special mention: 1st Test vs Pakistan in Lahore, 17 – 21 October 2003
South Africa failed to take advantage of a good batting wicket on the opening day and were dismissed for 320. Then, trailing by 81 on the first innings, the Proteas once more failed to deliver, managing only 241, which left Pakistan needing only 161 to win.

It took them only 40.1 overs and the loss of two wickets to wrap up the game. It was a disappointing showing because in both innings the Proteas batsmen were below par.

Best one-day international innings: Herschelle Gibbs
Amazingly, my pick of the bunch came in a losing effort, in fact in a loss by nine wickets to New Zealand in the World Cup! Gibbs was simply sensational as he smashed 143 off just 141 balls at the top of the order to help South Africa to 306 for six.

However, the Duckworth/Lewis method and an inspired once-in-a-lifetime innings of 134 not out by Stephen Fleming robbed Gibbs of what should have been a wonderful victory. Nonetheless, he was incredible, smashing 19 fours and three sixes in the best one-day innings by a South African batsman in 2003.

Special mention: Jonty Rhodes
Number two on my list doesn’t go to a centurion, but rather to someone who just missed out one, but played a wonderful knock nonetheless.

Rhodes, playing in front of his home crowd at Kingsmead, scored a superlative 98 off only 92 deliveries in the first one-day international against Pakistan as he took apart a decent-looking bowling attack with superb shot-making and cheeky running between the wickets.

Best one-day international bowling performance: Jacques Kallis
Kallis wins for the only five-wicket haul in a one-day international by a South African in 2003. However, quite surprisingly, that effort wasn’t enough to win him the man of the match award!

Nonetheless, his five for 41 haul in a 34-run victory, during which the Proteas restricted Pakistan to 231 all out, cracks the nod.

Special mention: Shaun Pollock
Pollock’s effort against Pakistan in the first one-day international against Pakistan in Durban was brilliant and it stopped the Pakistanis mounting a challenge to the Proteas.

His figures read 9.5 overs, one maiden, three wickets for only 12 runs. It was phenomenal, but somehow not surprising from probably the most miserly limited-overs bowler in the world.

Best one-day international performance of the year: 1st ODI vs Pakistan at Kingsmead
This match has come up quiet a few times, but that’s because there were some fine performances in it, a 132-run win for South Africa over a talented Pakistani line-up that had recently run roughshod over Zimbabwe.

Rhodes scored a wonderful 98 off 92 balls and Pollock smashed an unbeaten 57 off 51 deliveries as the Proteas reached 272 for seven.

Pollock then knocked over three for 12 in a ball less than 10 overs and Nicky Boje claimed three for 29 as the Proteas dismissed Pakistan for only 140 to record a huge victory.

Special mention: 5th ODI vs Pakistan in Rawalpindi
South Africa erased a 2-0 series deficit to tie Pakistan at two wins apiece and in the fifth one-day international – with the series on the line – the South Africans didn’t let the momentum slip. They scored a seven-wicket win to claim a memorable come-from-behind series victory.

Batting first, Pakistan were restricted to just 192 all out, thanks to a solid all-round bowling performance by South Africa. The Proteas then eased to victory with just over four overs to spare, for the loss of only three wickets.

One-day international batsman of the year: Boeta Dippenaar
Here’s one that will surprise many. However, Dippenaar’s average in 2003 was almost 14 runs better than Kallis, 21 better than Smith, and 23 better than Gibbs.

Dippenaar is by no means an explosive limited-overs batsman, but he is a fine accumulator of runs and his knocks often hold the innings together. He was at his best late in the year in Pakistan where he topped the averages with 256 runs scored at 64, including a century and two fifties.

Best ODI bowler of the year: Makhaya Ntini
While he was sometimes a little expensive, Ntini was often very successful. He captured 55 wickets in just four series and the World Cup at an average of only 18.49. Throughout those matches his average never rose beyond 21.

Ntini is certainly an entertaining bowler because when he plays one-day cricket his approach remains the same as his approach to the five-day game: attack, don’t defend. He had a wonderful year.

Special mention: Shaun Pollock
Pollock personifies tight seam bowling. His economy rate for 2003 was just 3.51 runs conceded per over and it’s worth remembering that he often bowls at the death when batsmen have a real go.

Pollock, though, not only kept opposing batting line-ups in check, he also claimed wickets, finishing with 36. He was certainly South Africa’s most consistent bowler, but then again that has been the case for some years now.

Worst one-day international performance of the year: 2nd ODI vs Pakistan in Port Elizabeth
This was an easy one to pick. South Africa had thrashed Pakistan by 132 runs in the first one-day international but were then hammered by a record margin of 182 runs in the second.

Batting first, Pakistan tore the South African bowling attack apart, amassing 335 for six in their 50 overs. Donald’s return of two for 60 in 10 overs was the most economical analysis in the South African attack. Then, the Pakistanis made it seem that the wicket had hidden demons as they dismissed the Proteas for just 153 runs in only 29 overs. A poor performance is a nice way to describe this dud served up by South Africa.

Special mention: Nat West Series final vs England at Lords
With silverware up for grabs, South Africa produced a stinker, tumbling to 107 all out in only 32.1 overs as England raced to victory in 20.2 overs, winning easily by seven wickets.

Not one batsman managed to make it into the twenties, effectively sealing the fate of the bowlers before they even had a ball in hand. Even then, England managed to score at almost a run a ball as they grabbed the Nat West series away from South Africa.

Sad moment of the year: Jonty Rhodes’ forced retirement
Rhodes had planned to end his international career at the World Cup in South Africa, hopefully with a winner’s medal to put the cherry on the top of his many great achievements. It never happened.

He broke a finger in South Africa’s second match against Kenya and that was it as the Proteas failed to fire and missed out on the Super Six stage of the competition. He deserved better.

In the case of Rhodes, figures most certainly do not tell the whole story – it’s more a case of them missing the point altogether.

His enthusiasm and leadership, his wholehearted effort and his dynamism made South Africa a better team. He will be missed by cricket fans throughout the world.

For the record, he finished his limited-overs career with 5 935 runs, scored at an average of 35.11 and a strike rate of 80.91 runs per 100 balls faced. His Test career finished in 2000 after he had scored 2 532 runs at 35.66.

His fielding, though, will be remembered more than his batting because he elevated that aspect of the game with his awesome skills, showing people that higher standards can be achieved. Sometimes the ending just isn’t right.

Disappointing moment of the year: South Africa’s elimination from the World Cup
The Proteas had not been at their best in the World Cup, but if they beat Sri Lanka in their final pool match they would have made it into the Super Sixes, thus giving themselves a chance to become the first team to win cricket’s biggest prize on home soil.

But somehow, inexplicably, South Africa’s World Cup nightmare struck once more. Batting first, Sri Lanka put up a challenging score of 268 for nine in their 50 overs. South Africa made a strong reply, getting off to a good start. But then the rains came. As the rain became heavier so the Proteas started flirting with the right and the wrong side of the runs required, according to the Duckworth/Lewis method.

The South African dressing room thought the Proteas were one run ahead of what was needed and Mark Boucher blocked the last ball of the 45th over before the teams were forced to leave the field by the rain. Incredibly, the South Africans had the calculations wrong and the Proteas were one run shy of a win.

The match was tied and the home side crashed out of the World Cup in the most unfortunate of circumstances, circumstances that somehow seem to appear in new and vicious ways every four years when the World Cup comes around.

Good-bye and thank you to: Allan Donald
South Africa’s first ever Test bowler to crack the magic 300 wicket mark ended his career at the World Cup where he proved to be largely ineffective.

During his career, though, he was one of the leading pace men in the game and spearheaded the Proteas to many victories alongside his new ball partner Pollock, in what was arguably the best opening combination in the game.

“White Lightning”, as he was known, ended his career with 330 Test wickets at just 22.25 per wicket, while in ODIs he claimed 272 wickets at 21.78.

He was an accomplished strike bowler, capable of taking wickets, intimidating opposition batsmen, tying up an end and motivating his teammates. He certainly gave it his all, even in the final years of his career when injuries proved more and more difficult to overcome.

It could be a long time before South Africa is privileged to find someone of Donald’s calibre again.

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