As a huge supporter of South Africa cricket, I sometimes wish I could have been present at some of the best matches our guys have played - 438 game, beating Oz in the Tests 2-1 2008, So I wrote the following piece about what it could have been like if I were to have experienced the Allan Donald vs Mike Atherton duel back in 1998 at Trent Bridge. I hope you enjoy!
Trent Bridge 1998
It was only days ago when my heart sank as Angus Fraser blocked out Allan Donald’s over to secure England a draw at Old Trafford. And now, needing to put up a fight in the 3rd innings and again put England under the kosh, the boys were throwing it away. Shucks! England were given just over a day to score 242 to seal the deal. “My bru, we need a blinking miracle if we going to pull this off!” I mumbled to the oke behind me. He was just as dumbfounded at our boys’ batting display. Someone will have to rise to the challenge! Hansie would surely have to turn to White Lightning! Forty minutes ago the Proteas were all out for a meager 208. It was the 4th afternoon of the 3rd Test. The Proteas batted first scoring 374 with Hansie making a valiant century, carting their debut spinner to all four corners of the park. England replied with a gutsy 336 to make sure they were still in the fight.
The boys took the field, and within a few overs Shaun nicked off Butcher. Hussain strode in. He was in with Atherton. “We need another wicket tonight if we going to have a chance of cleaning them up tomorrow’ I thought. I saw Hansie gesturing to his number one strike bowler to warm up. “This was it! This was surely the game’s defining moment.” My excitement was mounting. Over up. Allan walked up and gave his cap to Steve Dunne and marked out his run up. Atherton, having a chat with Hussain, peered through his helmet’s visor; he must have sensed what Allan was getting ready to dish up. I clapped my hands together in anticipation; geeing myself up. When Donald took the ball, anything could happen. Little did I know but the next 40 minutes would forever be recorded in the great annuals of cricket history. Allan, after the first ball, decided to come around the wicket. “Whoo Hoo – let him have it AD!” I screamed, knowing some short fire balls into Atherton’s rib cage were coming up. The atmosphere in the ground was silently electric as AD ran in. It was short. It was nicked. Taken! I jumped. I screamed! “Got him! It brushed the glove! Yes baby!” I joined in with my Proteas as they celebrated. Kallis ran from first slip to a cheering Donald as did the rest of the guys. Atherton was out. Time stopped. My stomach sank. “You can’t be bloody serious.” I shouted. The umpire was unmoved. No raised finger. Celebrations ceased. Not out. The Barmy Army cheered even louder. I was the mooring. But flip was I pumped. I could see Allan dropping some f-bombs mid pitch while Hussain, at the other end, just smiled and turned away; knowing the luck he’d just seen. Allan turned around and walked back to his mark. Atherton, without uttering a word, trudged down the wicket, tapped a few cracks, and surveyed the field. He cleared his head and fronted up for the 3rd ball of the over. Four more balls were bowled. No wicket.
This was getting tense. We needed that second wicket. We had to get it. Allan had to get it. 15 minutes past, and Allan was still on the rampage. The boys were clapping and getting in the batter’s ears. Hussain was looking nervous. Donald glided in, jumped, landed and released. Hussain fended and Boucher grabbed. I leapt from my seat. “There it is. That’s the wicket we needed.” I shouted in the split second as the ball skimmed off Hussain’s bat and into Mark’s gloves. And then, like a slow motion replay, it popped out. “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” Donald screamed in disbelief. “Jislaik it! How could this be happening! Atherton edged it and he’s given not out. Hussain edged it and the keeper drops it. What’s going on?” the guy pleaded behind me. What made us feel worse was that replays showed that if Jacques had stayed at first slip, he would have been perfectly positioned for Mark’s rebound. The proverbial ‘if” strikes again. The disappointment on the young Mark’s face was clear to all; he never meant to drop it; who does? Even Allan’s bum tap gesture after the over couldn’t make up for what some of us thought was the game changer. To many supporters it was a game to forget and yet, to others of us, we’ll reminisce about that 4th afternoon duel for many years to come. We saw history unfold before our eyes and it was glorious. Truly.