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Rewind to 1969/70: Australia in South Africa, Part 3

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Barry_Richards_Graeme_Pollock_South_Africa_CricketIt was at the New Wanderers in Johannesburg that South Africa had got off to a victorious start in their previous series against Australia, in 1966-67. Three years later, they were well placed to notch a series-clinching win at the venue in the third Test, beginning on February 19, 1970. With their morale sufficiently battered following heavy defeats at Cape Town and Durban, the Australians desperately needed something special to stay in with a chance to level the rubber.  

Ali Bacher’s good fortune with the coin continued, and to no one’s surprise, he decided that his team would bat. Australia’s pace ace Graham McKenzie, who went wicketless in the first two Tests, was declared unwell and replaced by Lawrence Mayne. South Africa made one change as well, with Denis Lindsay coming in for Dennis Gamsy behind the wicket.

Barry Richards, who almost scored a century before lunch on the first day at Durban, was in his element yet again.

Richards immediately put the Australian attack to the sword with an array of pleasing strokes all around the ground. Such was his dominance that his fellow opener Trevor Goddard had only six runs to his name when he fell to Alan Connolly with the score at 56. Connolly soon followed with the scalp of Richards, who was caught behind by Brian Taber for a breathtaking 65 in 74 balls, with 12 fours and a six. Bacher and Graeme Pollock then put on 56 for the third wicket.

Pollock was not at his most fluent, yet contributed with 52. At 141/2, South Africa seemed to be building towards another substantial total. But three wickets fell for 29 runs, including that of Pollock’s, as the Springboks reached 191/5 at the end of the rain-affected first day. Australia added two more wickets early on the second day to make it 194/7 and give themselves hope of a turnaround. However, Lee Irvine, who came in at number six, threw a spanner in the works.

Irvine rallied with the tail to take the total to 279, top-scoring with an assertive 79 from 126 balls before being dismissed by leg-spinner John Gleeson, who returned tidy figures of 3/61. The Australian batsmen, not for the first time in the series, endured a dreadful start to their first innings. Mike Procter had Keith Stackpole caught behind and Ian Redpath leg-before, while Peter Pollock got rid of captain Bill Lawry at the other end, thanks to another catch by Lindsay.

Australia’s score read 12/3 when Ian Chappell and Doug Walters came together. The duo mitigated the damage by sharing in a fourth-wicket partnership of 97, with the latter being the more aggressive of the two. The stand was broken when Chappell fell victim to the medium pace of Goddard. Soon after, Walters perished for a doughty 64, caught by Procter off Peter Pollock, thus solidifying the hosts’ position. Australia finished the second day at a shaky 122/5.

Despite a 54-run stand for the eighth wicket between Paul Sheahan (44) and Taber, Australia folded for 202 on the third day. Peter Pollock, who collected 5/39, was instrumental in handing his team a vital lead of 77, and together with Procter (3/48), made short work of the tail – the last three wickets could only muster eight runs. Richards was more subdued as South Africa came out to bat again, but his opening stand of 76 with Eddie Barlow set the tone for the innings.

Barlow stole the show this time around, putting the game beyond Australia’s reach with a valuable innings. He was on 64* when South Africa began the fourth day at 162/2, and went on to reach his sixth Test hundred - his second of the series - in the course of a third-wicket alliance worth 139 with Graeme Pollock. The unstoppable Pollock recorded yet another fifty, before he was third out with the score at 241, bowled by pacer Eric Freeman 13 runs short of a century.

Gleeson removed Barlow, who batted for 323 minutes to compile a 252-ball 110, and Lindsay within the space of six runs to reduce South Africa to 275/5, but if Australia thought that would give them an opening, they were mistaken. Irvine (73) slashed his way to his second fifty of the Test, and his sixth-wicket stand with Tiger Lance fetched 74 runs. Gleeson took 5/125 to give himself a career-best match return of 8/186, but could not stop South Africa from piling up 408.

In what was now a familiar pattern in the series, Australia stared at an improbable challenge in their second innings. With the unenviable task of chasing 486 upon them, the top order predictably capitulated in the face of South Africa’s pace battery.

As was the case in the first innings, Stackpole was out caught behind cheaply off Procter (3/24). Barlow’s productive day prolonged, as he sent Lawry and Chappell back in successive balls to leave Australia at 43/3.

Walters and Sheahan could not repeat their first-innings resistance and had their woodwork disturbed by Procter to push Australia deeper into the abyss, the score now reading 73/5. The final day commenced with Australia still a gargantuan 398 runs away from their target. Redpath scored a battling 66, but was unable to stop a horror slide from 122/5 to 126/9. It was nothing short of an ignominy for the Australians, who simply seemed to be going through the motions.

Connolly entertained with a quick 36 from number eleven in a last-wicket stand of 52 with Taber, before Goddard (3/27) duly had him out caught by Richards to wrap up South Africa’s most comprehensive series win of all time. The margin of victory was 307 runs, a new record for the biggest Test win in terms of runs by South Africa, going past their 243-run win against England at the Old Wanderers in Johannesburg, back in 1905-06.

It was only fitting that Goddard took the final wicket, as he announced his retirement from Test cricket after the match. He played his part in the series with the ball, taking nine wickets at an average of 22.55 and a remarkable economy rate of 1.60.

Having made his Test debut in 1955, Goddard scored 2,516 runs at 34.46 and took 123 wickets at 26.22 from 41 matches. He also called it a day from first-class cricket the following month, ending an illustrious 17-year career.   

South Africa’s amazing all-round depth had sealed a memorable series victory for them with a match to spare. The final Test was to be played at St. George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, where South Africa had won by seven wickets to complete a 3-1 triumph in the 1966-67 series against Australia. Judging by the manner in which they had outplayed the Australians, they were well on course to go one step better and record an unprecedented clean sweep.  

 

Part 2

Part 1

 

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

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