Thursday, Nov 18, 2004
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By Sanjay Rajan
CHENNAI, NOV. 17. Just as South African cricket was peaking came its excommunication in 1970, triggered by the country's apartheid policy.
The 4-0 mauling it handed out to Bill Lawry's Australia in 1969-70 was South Africa's last Test series before returning to the international fold some 22 seasons later.
South Africa's expulsion left quite a few questions unanswered, particularly the one concerning Barry Richards, whose batting greatness, sadly, could not be measured at the highest level for a longer duration of time. Similarly with the exceptionally talented Mike Procter.
Possibly the subsequent exclusion has, over the years, lent a touch of romance to the '69-70 series. South Africa was led by Ali Bacher, and its line-up was not only bristling with talent, but equally hungry for success.
Its cricket relations were limited to England, Australia and New Zealand for obvious reasons and South Africa, in the preceding seasons, had won its first rubber against Australia, 3-1 at home in 1966-67, beaten England 1-0 in a three-Test series in England in 1965, lost to England 1-0 at home in 1964-65, and drawn 0-0 the three-Test series against New Zealand away in 1963-64.
Australia, meanwhile, had trounced India 4-0 Down Under in 1967-68, drawn the Ashes series away 1-1 in 1968, defeated the West Indies 3-1 in Australia in 1968-69 and beaten India 3-1 in the sub-continent in 1969-70 to be rated the top Test nation in the world.
Lawry's side had only a matter of days to adjust from the slow, spinning pitches of India to the green, seaming surfaces of South Africa and were duly blown away in the four-match series. It can always be said in Australia's defence that the team was drained and distracted from the long tour of India.
It was indeed a sign of things to come when medium-pacer Peter Pollock took the wickets of Lawry and Ian Chappell, who batted so well in India, in the space of four deliveries in the first Test. Australia was shot out for 164 in the first innings. The pattern of dramatic batting collapses continued throughout the series.
Such was its domination, that South Africa could afford leaving out wicketkeeper Denis Lindsay, who had been Australia's nemesis three years earlier. Lindsay returned for the final two Tests, lending more depth to the batting.
In what was his debut series, opener Richards made 29 and 32 in the first Test, 140 in the second, 65 and 35 in the third and 81 and 126 in the fourth.
The talented Graeme Pollock, walking in at No. 4, stroked 49 and 50 in the opening Test, 274 in the second, 52 and 87 in the third and one and four in the fourth. Barlow scored two centuries. New-ball bowler Procter took 26 wickets at an average of 13.57.
No Australian figured in the list of century-makers while Graham McKenzie, who impressed in India (21 wickets in five Tests), took only one wicket in the three Tests he played in.
Outplayed in all departments, Australia's fielding left a lot to be desired. So much that 13 chances were missed off the mystery spinner John Gleeson.
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