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Rewind to 1969/70: Australia in South Africa, Part 2

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Graeme_Pollock_South_Africa_CricketKingsmead in Durban, the venue of the second Test beginning on February 5, 1970 , had been the scene of many a memorable occasion over the years; from the incredible timeless Test of 1938-39 to Neil Harvey’s 151* in Australia’s stunning comeback win in 1949-50 to South Africa’s dominating eight-wicket win over Australia in the previous series in 1966-67. Coming into this match, Australia’s record at Kingsmead read three wins and a defeat from five Tests.

South Africa made two changes from the eleven that won in Cape Town - pace-bowling all-rounder Herbert ‘Tiger’ Lance and Egyptian-born off-spinner John Traicos replaced the spin duo of Kelly Seymour and Grahame Chevalier – while Australia brought in fast bowler Eric Freeman for Ashley Mallett. Ali Bacher won his second toss, and again decided to bat. There was controversy even before the first ball was bowled, extending the discord between the two teams.

Australian captain Bill Lawry lodged an official protest after Bacher seemingly called for an extra cut of the pitch upon winning the toss. Bacher countered that it was mutually decided prior to the match that the pitch would be trimmed before play began. However, this issue could not hamper the focus of Barry Richards, who wowed the crowd with a most riveting innings. Richards’ opening stand with Trevor Goddard fetched 88, with the latter contributing only 17.

Lunch was taken with South Africa at 126/2 - Bacher being the second batsman to fall - and Richards himself on 94*. The hour immediately after lunch saw Richards and Graeme Pollock unleash their strokeplay on the Australians in supreme fashion. In the first over following the break, Richards raced to his maiden Test hundred from just 116 balls, using his wrists with aplomb. The exhilarating third-wicket partnership between him and Pollock realised 103 runs.

The princely Pollock stamped his class as well, matching Richards’ elegance with his own finesse-filled cover drives in the course of their alliance, which conveyed to the world South Africa’s position as a cricketing powerhouse of the highest calibre. Richards’ technically perfect innings of 140, constructed off 164 balls in just three hours, with 20 fours and a six, came to an end with his only false stroke of the day, when he misjudged one from Freeman to get bowled.

Two runs later, Freeman added the scalp of Eddie Barlow, reducing South Africa to 231/4. Pollock, meanwhile, had his sights set on new records. He dominated a 50-run stand for the fifth wicket with Lee Irvine, but this was only an appetizer to what would follow. The southpaw found an ideal foil in Lance, and the two further tightened the Springboks’ grip. Pollock reached his seventh Test century in 170 minutes, and was on 160* when the hosts ended the day at 386/5.

The overnight pair stretched their partnership to 200 the following morning, a new South African record for the sixth wicket, before wicketkeeper Brian Taber stumped Lance off John Gleeson for 61. Pollock continued the onslaught, conjuring exquisite drives and piercing the gaps at will. He brought about his second Test double hundred - the first also came against Australia, at Cape Town in 1966-67 – in five hours and seven minutes. It was batsmanship at its most imperious.

There was no end to Australia’s woes as Peter Pollock joined his younger brother for a seventh-wicket partnership worth 77. They were separated when Graeme Pollock offered Keith Stackpole a simple return catch to end his magnificent innings. Pollock’s final tally was a record-breaking 274 that spanned three minutes short of seven hours, consumed 401 balls, and featured 43 fours. It was his highest first-class score, bettering his 209 in the aforesaid Cape Town Test of 1966-67.

When he reached 256, Pollock created a new record for the highest Test score by a South African, going past Jackie McGlew’s 255* against New Zealand at Wellington in 1952-53. This record would remain until 1998-99, when Daryll Cullinan scored 275* against New Zealand at Auckland. Pollock became only the second South African after Dudley Nourse to score two double hundreds in Tests. He also passed 2,000 Test runs during the course of the innings.

Yet another record was soon broken as South Africa declared at a colossal 622/9, their highest Test total, surpassing the 620 they amassed against Australia at Johannesburg in 1966-67. It was only in 2003 that this total was bettered, when a Graeme Smith-led Proteas outfit ran up 682/6 against England at Lord’s. Gleeson took three wickets to finish as Australia’s best bowler, but he was taken for 160. Pace spearhead Graham McKenzie went for 92 from 25.5 wicketless overs.

Lawry and Stackpole looked good to carry Australia to stumps without damage, motoring the score to 44/0. However, Goddard had Stackpole caught behind by Dennis Gamsy to open the floodgates. Moments later, Barlow (3/24) began to unleash mayhem at the other end, accounting for Ian Chappell (for a duck), Lawry and Doug Walters in the blink of an eye. Within two overs, Australia lost four wickets for four runs, and at close of play, were left gasping for breath at 48/4.

Mike Procter and Peter Pollock added to the Australians’ misery on day three, as the score further slid to 79/6. Only Paul Sheahan showed gumption, top-scoring with 62 from number six in a total of 157. The first-innings lead of 465 remains the second largest conceded by Australia in Test history, while it was the largest gained by South Africa until 2003. Unlike the first Test, where the lead was 218, it was a no-brainer for Bacher to enforce the follow-on this time.

Australia’s response was better in the second attempt, but they were left with too steep a task for survival. Lawry was the first batsman to fall, out caught behind to Goddard, after he had helped Stackpole put on 65 for the first wicket. Chappell was dismissed cheaply again, caught behind off Peter Pollock, as Australia finished the third day at 100/2, behind by 365 runs. Stackpole and Walters, the overnight batsmen, extended their third-wicket stand to 83 on the fourth morning.

Traicos trapped Stackpole leg-before for 71, but Walters and Ian Redpath ensured that South Africa would not have it as easy as they did in the first dig, sharing in a fourth-wicket stand of 57. Nevertheless, Walters’ dismissal to Traicos for 74 led to a collapse of five for 60, even as Redpath hung on. Gleeson provided Redpath, who remained unbeaten on 74, with some semblance of support in a ninth-wicket stand of 68, but all it did was lessen the margin a wee bit.

With the score at 336/8, Procter removed Gleeson and Alan Connolly in successive balls to seal South Africa’s delightfully satisfying win by an innings and 129 runs within four days – their first innings win against Australia. Procter and Barlow both took three wickets apiece. Australia, thoroughly outclassed in all departments, were left to lick their wounds, which were inflicted by the blades of Richards and Pollock on the first day and only got deeper as the Test progressed.

 

Part 1

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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