Hansie Cronje is bowled by Devon Malcolm

Malcolm gets Cronje bowled middle stump past the outside edge

Graham Chadwick / © Getty Images
3

I Was There

'I saw some of the so-called tough guys of world cricket tremble'

A look back to when Devon Malcolm breathed fire and spewed brimstone at The Oval against South Africa

Scott Oliver |

Back in the summer of 1994, two years after South Africa's readmission to the international fold, they visited England. It was the two countries' first Test encounter in 29 years.

Fanie de Villiers, South Africa opening bowler: Most of us were 28 to 33 - seasoned cricketers - and were pretty battle-hardened after six Tests against Australia, which we drew 1-1 home and away.

Brian McMillan, South Africa allrounder: There was a lot of hype for the series back in South Africa. Starting at Lord's: a famous venue, a big game, a good result, and me and Pat Symcox on the balcony with a beer and a cigar.

South Africa's 356-run victory was overshadowed in the English media by the so-called "dirt in the pocket affair", with England captain Mike Atherton caught in flagrante by TV cameras.

Graham Thorpe, England batsman: Athers' horticultural work: not his finest hour!

"Now Craig Matthews is just a trundler but he got one right beneath the grille, and I didn't get hit very often, so that tells you how quick the pitch was" John Crawley

John Crawley, England batsman: Most of the players knew something had happened, but weren't aware exactly what the cameras had picked up. There were a lot of whisperings. I'm sure Athers probably was trying to get the ball to reverse, but I always say: what difference is there between sprinkling a little bit of dust on the ball from a spinner rubbing his hands in the dirt and then over the seam?

Alec Stewart, England wicketkeeper-batsman: At the time it was: what's all this about? But he was hung out to dry. Situations like that bring a team closer together. There was sympathy for Ath and the way he was exposed.

Following a high-scoring draw at Headingley, the teams headed back to London with England needing a win to draw the series. The Oval wicket was white and hard. Neither side selected a front-line spinner.

Stewart: It wasn't especially quick. It was the last of the lively pitches. That square was re-laid in the late-'70s and they were just starting to get tired. But it was certainly one of the best pitches in the world, and a yard quicker than [other] English pitches.

South African captain Kepler Wessels won the toss and decided to bat. By the middle of the afternoon they were in trouble, the chief destroyer being, somewhat surprisingly, England's 33-year-old debutant: Surrey seamer Joey Benjamin.

That old familiar battle: Donald v Atherton on day three

That old familiar battle: Donald v Atherton on day three Graham Chadwick / © PA Photos/Getty Images

Joey Benjamin, England fast bowler: There were whispers, but it was still a surprise to be selected. I was having a good season, though, and ended up with 80 wickets.

Stewart: I'd seen that summer how he could swing the ball, and how his lengths were very good at The Oval, but you never know how someone's going to go. He wasn't quick quick, but he was lively enough.

Benjamin: The day before the game, we were at The Oval, practising. I got in the lift with Athers and he told me I was going to play. You feel the butterflies. You hope it isn't a bridge too far and that you could do what you'd been doing for your county.

They were effectively 136 for 6, with Jonty Rhodes having been hit hard on the head by Devon Malcolm, ducking into a ball only slightly back of a length and being led from the field in a daze, not returning until late in South Africa's second innings.

"It's never nice to see one of your team-mates carried off the field, and if I remember rightly, there was a bit of blood on the wicket" Brian McMillan

Daryll Cullinan, South Africa batsman: The thing with Devon, was he caught a lot of people out because the point of release wasn't where you thought it was going to be. He'd get to the crease, then jump wide, then bowl with that round, slinging action. He had that thing where the ball disappeared behind his back. He pinned a few guys that didn't pick him up. That might be what did for Jonty.

McMillan: It was interesting from a psychological perspective - it's never nice to see one of your team-mates carried off the field, and if I remember rightly, there was a bit of blood on the wicket - but Dave Richardson and me fought it out, ducked and dived, got some runs, and got us back into the Test. We did what we had to do.

Stewart: McMillan was a great competitor and a really good cricketer. Not quite Ben Stokes, but he bowled a sharp bouncer and didn't give an inch when he was batting either, even when it was flying around his ears. I enjoyed playing against him.

Man of the Series McMillan made 93, adding 124 with Richardson as South Africa recovered to make 332. Benjamin finished with 4 for 42 from 17 overs in what turned out to be his sole Test appearance.

That's me done: Malcolm leads the team off the field on day three

That's me done: Malcolm leads the team off the field on day three © Getty Images

Benjamin: It was surreal to walk down to the Laker Stand and get the applause. We had to win, so to contribute to that and feel the appreciation felt really good. I thought: "This Test cricket is easy!" The only thing I was disappointed with - I wanted to take a five-for on my debut and the next morning I'd have liked to have had the ball first thing, but it went to Malcolm and DeFreitas. Why not give me the ball?

England's reply began with Atherton lbw to de Villiers first ball, a rueful glance at his bat and prolonged head shake indicating a sizeable inside edge, and prompting another meeting with the match referee, Peter Burge, who fined him half his match fee. The Surrey pair of Stewart and Thorpe settled things with 79 and 62 respectively, before a middle-order wobble left England in trouble.

Crawley: I didn't bat for very long, but I remember being hit in the throat by Craig Matthews. Now Craig Matthews is just a trundler - and he'd be a trundler in any form of the game - but he got one right beneath the grille, and I didn't get hit very often, so that tells you how quick the pitch was.

However, at 222 for 7, their backs against the wall, Phil DeFreitas and Darren Gough combined for a rambunctious 70-run partnership that tilted the momentum England's way.

McMillan: The wicket slowed up, or the ball got soft, or the bowlers got tired, or something happened. It wasn't quite flying through and those two took full advantage.

"I wanted to take a five-for on my debut and the next morning I'd have liked to have had the ball first thing, but it went to Malcolm and DeFreitas. Why not give me the ball?" Joey Benjamin

Phil DeFreitas, England bowler: [Allan] Donald was bowling quite fast, and I thought if I tried to defend, I was going to get nailed. Raymond Illingworth was the chairman of selectors, Keith Fletcher was the coach, and I'm sat there waiting to bat when we lose a wicket with about an hour to go. Fletcher said, "Look, just try and survive the evening". So, I'm walking down the steps to go in and Illingworth's there. He says, "Lad, play your shots. You're a better player when you do that". So I just went for it. I reckon Donald bowled as quick as Dev. We had chest guards, arms guards. When Goughie came in, we just had a laugh. The whole crowd got behind us. I borrowed Graham Thorpe's bat. We were both with Kookaburra at the time, and his was a bit lighter.

DeFreitas' dismissal was shortly followed by that of Benjamin, which saw the entrance of certified rabbit Devon Malcolm, for what turned out to be a pivotal episode in the game: he was hit on the helmet by de Villiers.

De Villiers: When I hit Devon on the head it took a piece of his helmet, which I think he put in his pocket. I must admit we were laughing a bit, because he really looked like he couldn't play. I think us giggling was what probably upset him.

McMillan: Fanie hitting him on the head really backfired.

Legend, and one of Malcolm's autobiography titles, records him telling the South Africans: "You guys are history."

Cullinan:

Cullinan: "Anybody who tells you that they feel totally comfortable facing that sort of extreme pace is a liar" © PA Photos

Stewart: There's no way he said "You guys are history." He'd have been too dazed. He might have thought he was history. It's a good story, though. It's earned him a couple of quid after-dinner speaking.

De Villiers: There was that whole thing about him telling us he was going to kill us. That story was just made up later to make it all sound better.

Anyway, at the interval, with a deficit of 28, the game and series were heading toward a crossroads. Malcolm, meanwhile, was heading for the fabled zone.

Stewart: Graham Gooch - a senior player and former captain - got everyone together and spoke very well about how we needed to deliver for the captain, who was under fire. I don't recall where Ath was at the time: probably paying back his match fee to the referee!

"I'm walking down the steps to go in and Illingworth's there. He says, "Lad, play your shots. You're a better player when you do that". So I just went for it" Philip DeFreitas

Thorpe: Dev was sat there with his headphones on, doing his elastic band work to loosen his shoulder, as he usually did. Once we got out there, though, it all started to happen pretty quickly.

Atherton's instincts led him to give Malcolm the first over, the opening delivery roared just under Gary Kirsten's rapidly jerking head before thumping into the gloves of Steve Rhodes, several yards away in the direction of Vauxhall Bridge. David Gower, on commentary, observed wryly: "I think Devon means business today." Soon both Kirsten brothers were blown away, Gary jabbing and Peter hooking.

Crawley: I remember standing at short leg when Dev came in, all revved up, and Gary Kirsten got one right at the top of the bat handle, the ball lobbed up and I was getting ready to catch it at short leg, when all I can hear is Dev come thundering in, shouting, "Mine, mine, mine" and his footsteps getting louder and louder. Now, Dev's not the best catcher of a cricket ball you've ever seen, so I'm thinking, 'Should I catch it…?' but in the end I just got out of the way.

Cullinan: That was Peter Kirsten's last tour. They'd made the call on his career. He'd got a hundred at Headingley, but by bringing me in, someone had to go up to open. He was extremely unhappy about it, and that shot said it all.

Thorpe: Devon then knocked Cronje over and we all thought it had been an absolute jaffa, but Dev said it hit his leg stump past the outside edge.

Hick gives Malcolm a champagne baptism in the dressing room

Hick gives Malcolm a champagne baptism in the dressing room © Getty Images

Stewart: There were a few who were staying a little leg side.

The only batsman who acquitted himself well was Cullinan, whose 94 formed over half of South Africa's total.

Cullinan: I couldn't wait to get out there. I'd clawed my way back in and this was my chance to do something. I felt very relaxed. And I felt comfortable that I had the game to cope. Anticipating a fairly pacey pitch, I'd gone with two pals of mine down to the indoor school at Lord's and had two sessions there with them bowling short at me on those indoor surfaces off about 20 yards. I'd been dropped against Australia and I thought I wouldn't get on this tour. It was a second chance in my career, so I was incredibly motivated to do well. But anybody who tells you that they feel totally comfortable facing that sort of extreme pace is a liar. It's a love-hate sort of relationship, a complete adrenaline rush. It was very simple. You can't get caught up in fidgety types of thoughts about your game or whatever, except that you've got to watch the ball. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And it was a really beautiful wicket to bat on.

Stewart: No one can honestly say they enjoy the challenge of rapid quick bowling, but some enjoy the challenge more than others, and a few South Africans were not prepared to really fight for their team-mates or their country.

"If I'd known Devon was going to take those wickets, I might have gone into the England dressing room with a rifle and maybe broke his kneecaps if I could have" Brian McMillan

McMillan: There were a couple that didn't really front up and preferred to be in the changing rooms.

Cullinan: It was the one time in my career that I saw some of the so-called tough guys of world cricket tremble a bit and depart quite happily, supposedly having gloved one to the keeper. You either want to be there or you don't. Those sorts of situations bring out the best or the worst in you. The fear factor is huge. It can show up, big time, whether you've got the stomach for it or not.

DeFreitas: To be fair, the South Africans, they crapped it a bit. He got it right and bowled quick.

Malcolm's 9 for 57 was the sixth best analysis in Test history at the time. It had been a roaring, eviscerating, surprising exhibition of extreme pace.

Thorpe: We knew from facing him in the nets that if he got it right, he was bloody quick. And on that day, on that pitch, he was pretty frightening at times. You could tell he'd frightened a few of them, without a shadow of doubt.

Hick made sure England got to their target lickety split on day four

Hick made sure England got to their target lickety split on day four Graham Chadwick / © PA Photos

Stewart: When he clicked, there wasn't a quicker bowler in world cricket.

Thorpe: It's very rare you see those sorts of spells. I was on the wrong end of one from [Curtly] Ambrose in Trinidad when we got rumbled for 40-odd.

McMillan: If I'd known Devon was going to take those wickets, I might have gone into the England dressing room with a rifle and maybe broke his kneecaps if I could have.

With a smidge over 200 to chase, England romped to victory at the then bonkers run rate of 5.77, with Donald recording figures of 12-1-96-1. Gooch started things off with 33 from 20 balls.

Thorpe: The Oval was a very good cricket pitch. If you were off line or the batsman decided, "I'm coming after you", then that could happen.

Cullinan: If I remember, England had announced their one-day squad and Gooch had been left out. He came in on the back of that news and absolutely murdered Allan, teed off completely. On top of Devon's spell, that was about it for us. I'd played with AD since school days and it was the first time I'd seen a batsman, on that sort of pitch, do that to him. It was brilliant to watch.

"There's no way he said 'You guys are history.' He'd have been too dazed. He might have thought he was history. It's a good story, though" Alec Stewart

Graeme Hick followed up with a run-a-ball 81. A breathless match had ended with South Africa walloped by eight wickets in what Ray Illingworth described as "the finest display of sustained attacking cricket" he had seen from an England team.

Thorpe: There were a few times in Hicky's career where we thought he was really established in the sort of dominant form that everyone had seen from him in county cricket. This was one of them. It didn't happen very often, but when it did, you saw what could have happened with the handcuffs off him a little more.

And this was truer of no one more than Malcolm himself.

Benjamin: He should have been the No. 1 bowler, the spearhead, and would have been today. But they didn't have enough confidence in him. Back then, you were playing over a trapdoor.

Stewart: He was a match-changer. When he was hot, he was red-hot and could change a game in our favour. When he was cold he was a match-changer in favour of the opposition, because he could spray it everywhere. But when Angus Fraser was fit and played with Devon, then that pair were as good as any. Gus going at 1.5 runs per over and Devon at five, you were still in the game. If Devon played in this era, when selection is more stable, sensible and well thought through, instead of panic and knee-jerk, then he'd be a regular first choice.

Cullinan: Bottom line is, it was a real privilege to have watched that performance, that pace. It was one of the great moments in cricket.

Scott Oliver tweets @reverse_sweeper

 

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  • POSTED BY mespnqa on | August 2, 2017, 17:58 GMT

    "There's no way he said 'You guys are history.' He'd have been too dazed. He might have thought he was history. It's a good story, though"

  • POSTED BY John on | July 29, 2017, 15:17 GMT

    It's a bit too easy to glib if Malcolm had been picked more he would have been an all time great. He had 40 tests and his bowling average was 37. The unfortunate truth is that he didn't perform anything like often enough to establish a place.

    The story quoted about this game game is that he bowled quicker because he was annoyed about being hit on the helmet. If that really is true, it is a pity he wasn't hit more often.

  • POSTED BY mespnqa on | July 29, 2017, 10:31 GMT

    The perfect magazine for cricket lovers