Tests: South Africa 1 Australia 1, ODIs: South Africa 4 Australia 4

The Australians in South Africa, 1993-94

Australia's tour of South Africa in early 1994 was a big success on and off the field, and honour was mutually satisfied when they split the three-Test series 1-1 and the one-day international series 4-4. The results of the Tests matched those in the series played just beforehand in Australia, though they were an utter contrast to Australia's previous visit 24 years earlier when South Africa won 4-0. In this case, the greater pride was with the South Africans since the same Australian players had slaughtered England a few months before.

Except for two spectacular lapses, the spirit displayed by both teams was good, but doubts must remain about the wisdom of two countries playing each other in back-to-back series in more than four months of non-stop travel. The imbalance of five-day and one-day cricket is a problem which the United Cricket Board of South Africa must redress as soon as financial constraints imposed by their vast development programme for disadvantaged young cricketers are eased. The problems are best illustrated by the personal landmarks achieved by opening batsmen Michael Slater and Andrew Hudson. Both young men reached 1,000 Test runs, each in his 14th Test, and in their 23rd and 25th innings respectively. But Slater's milestone came only 291 days after his debut at Old Trafford, while Hudson's came 23 months after his first Test in Barbados. Since that match South Africa had played 39 one-day internationals. The South Africans do have a problem: The three five-day Tests drew 170,000 spectators, at grounds in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban which have a daily capacity of 30,000, 20,000 and 19,000 respectively; the eight limited-overs games were all set-outs, and were watched by 157,000.

The first two Tests produced one-sided results after fluctuating matches containing the best elements of five-day cricket. After South Africa had been 126 for six on the first day in Johannesburg, only a supremely resilient innings from Jonty Rhodes kept his side in the match and enabled Hansie Cronje to score a century and set up the victory. At Newlands, the match seemed a certain draw until, in the final half-hour on the fourth day, South Africa lost four wickets for three runs, beginning with a hairline run-out of Kepler Wessels, settled by the third umpire.

The much-anticipated decider at Kingsmead never caught fire. The Australians lost their way in the first innings, and the sudden loss of three wickets by South Africa on the second day removed all the batsmen's sense of urgency. Allan Border's final Test before he announced his retirement was thus an anticlimax, although his unbeaten 42 ensured a draw. The most durable cricketer of his time walked out with a proud record of 32 wins in 93 consecutive Tests as captain. His aggregate of 11,174 runs in 156 Tests may be beaten, but perhaps no one will ever make quite such a contribution to his country's cricket.

The one-day series was also halved: Australia retrieved a 3-1 deficit and won the eighth game in Bloemfontein by one run. Steve Waugh achieved the rare distinction of being named Man of the Series in both Tests and limited-overs internationals, to add to the same award in the three-Test series in Australia: he played the best cricket of his life, excelling in the field as well as with bat and ball. Slater confirmed his reputation as an unusually positive young player, but the remainder of the batting was patchy. Shane Warne carried the bowling with 15 wickets, giving him 33 against South Africa in six Tests. Disappointments included the recurrence of Craig McDermott's knee injury, Merv Hughes's lack of form and fitness, Tim May's failure to make an impact and the poor tour of Dean Jones, who announced his retirement from international cricket at its conclusion. He did not play in a Test and was omitted from the final one-day match.

For South Africa, Hudson's 293 runs in five innings were unusually polished and attractive for an opener. Cronje had a golden stretch of 742 runs in all cricket against the Australians from seven completed innings in 15 days, but followed it with only 123 from his next seven innings. Rhodes was electrifying, turning the First Test with a fighting 69 and then a brilliant run-out of Border. As captain, Wessels's policy was always safety-first, but he could be satisfied with his part in South Africa's successful international come-back.

The behavioural lapses were both on the Australian side in the Johannesburg Test. Hughes was reported to the referee, Donald Carr, for several cases of verbal abuse of batsman, making this the third time since November 1992 he had been reported. In 15 Tests since then, his match fees totalled A$60,000, but Carr fined him just ten per cent of his match fee, bringing his total fines for the three offences of A$800. Carr was the referee who, after the second offence in Perth 13 months earlier, had reprimanded Hughes and warned him about his future conduct.

The incident involving Warne was much worse, if less characteristic Border had kept him out of the attack for the first 44 overs of the second innings. When he did come on, he bowled Hudson in his first over, and immediately raced down the pitch shouting volleys of abuse. Wicket-keeper Ian Healy, spotting that Warne was then heading for the departing batsman in the square leg area, had to restrain his colleague.

A worse example of misbehaviour it would be difficult to imagine, but Carr again deducted just ten per cent off the match fee. The Australian Board then moved in and withheld both players' entire fee for the Test. Carr compounded his errors by fining Rhodes the same ten per cent for transgressing the regulation about advertising logos on the straps of his pads.

The TV umpire, an idea which South Africa introduced to the world in 1992, had his duties widened to deal with all line decisions, including boundary-rope infringements by fielders. But lack of direct communication between the umpires on and off the field resulted in at least four such boundaries not being given. Even more important was the flaw exposed in the use of television to judge run-outs, when a fielder obstructed the camera at the crucial moment. The broadcasting authorities refused to meet the considerable costs of installing two extra cameras, on either side of the pitch. A further problem arose in the Third Test, when Hudson could not be given run out because he finished well wide of the crease. The line was subsequently extended six metres either side of the pitch, but even that might not be enough for incidents involving a runner standing by the square-leg umpire.

Match reports for

1st ODI: South Africa v Australia at Johannesburg, Feb 19, 1994
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2nd ODI: South Africa v Australia at Centurion, Feb 20, 1994
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3rd ODI: South Africa v Australia at Port Elizabeth, Feb 22, 1994
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4th ODI: South Africa v Australia at Durban, Feb 24, 1994
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1st Test: South Africa v Australia at Johannesburg, Mar 4-8, 1994
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2nd Test: South Africa v Australia at Cape Town, Mar 17-21, 1994
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3rd Test: South Africa v Australia at Durban, Mar 25-29, 1994
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5th ODI: South Africa v Australia at East London, Apr 2, 1994
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6th ODI: South Africa v Australia at Port Elizabeth, Apr 4, 1994
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7th ODI: South Africa v Australia at Cape Town, Apr 6, 1994
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8th ODI: South Africa v Australia at Bloemfontein, Apr 8, 1994
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© John Wisden & Co