With the Test Series in South Africa almost upon us here are my top 3 Australian test innings in South Africa. I have started the list off with the third ranked innings:
3. Michael Clarke 151 at Newlands, Capetown 2011
The Australian skipper played a lone hand in the now infamous Cape Town debacle. The home side had the same pace bowling attack that the current side will now face in Steyn, Philander and Morkel.
The Aussies batted first and the pace battery was well on top when Clarke entered the fray at 3/40. From there Clarke dominated on a difficult pitch peeling off 151 out of Australia’s total of 284. The runs came off only 176 balls with 22 boundaries and the next best score was only 44 by Shaun Marsh.
It appeared to be a match winning knock when the South Africans were bundled out for a meagre 96 in their first innings. But from there one of the great disasters ensued for Australia when they were bowled out for only 47 and went on to lose the game by 8 wickets.
Clarke’s innings though was superb, especially considering in the next two innings only four players got into double figures. It was also scored against a world class attack and it would be unfortunate if this great innings was overshadowed by the 47 all out debacle that followed.
2. Adam Gilchrist 204 not out at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg 2002
This near run a ball double-hundred was scored when Gilchrist was at the top of his game. Coming in at 5/293 Gilchrist raced to 204 not out of just 213 balls including 19 boundaries and 8 sixes.
At the time it was the fastest 200 in terms of balls faced and displayed all the elements of his destructive force. Gilchrist teamed up with Damien Martyn to smash the bowlers to all parts of the ground in a 317 run stand.
The speed with which Gilchrist scored allowed Australia to amass 652 runs in just 5 sessions. It was a powerful innings that totally took the initiative away from the South African’s and completely sapped their morale. It was the perfect way to start the test series for Steve Waugh’s team.
They went on to win the match in 3 days by a whopping innings and 360 runs which is the second heaviest defeat in test history. In the next test Gilchrist went on to make 138 not out of just 108 balls which just missed this list.
1.Mark Waugh 116 at St Georges Park, Port Elizabeth 1997
The elegant right-hander tops the list with an absolute gem of innings back in 1997 in the toughest of circumstances. Australia had just walloped South Africa in the first test to take a series lead.
The Australian team, led by Mark Taylor, was seeking to win a series in South Africa for the first time since the South Africans were re-admitted after their 22 year exile. The South African Attack was led by the great Allan Donald.
This Port Elizabeth test was a see-saw affair with Australia trailing by 101 after both first innings. At stumps on day 2 South Africa were 0/83, 184 runs ahead, and seemingly in an unassailable position.
On the third morning Australia ran through the South Africans and bowled them out for 168 taking 10 wickets for 85 runs. Australia required 270 runs to win the match and the series.
The fall of wickets continued in the Australian 2nd innings when they collapsed to 2/30. Up until this point in the game the highest score by any batsman had been only 55, in the first innings Australia had made just 108 with a top score of just 23.
The target of 270 seemed like Mount Everest. Enter Mark Waugh to play one of his finest test innings.
Waugh batted for 5 and a half hours and faced 228 balls in his match winning 116. He stroked 17 fours and 1 six and his innings shepherded Australia to within sight of the target.
It was a masterful display under extreme pressure. Waugh displayed all the qualities of concentration, grit and determination that his older twin is more famous for.
The next highest scorer was Matthew Elliot with only 44. Without Waugh’s classy 116 Australia wouldn’t have got near the 270 required.
Waugh was by far the best performed batsman in the match and it allowed Australia to seal the series and inflict a rare home defeat on the South Africans.
What a great innings to top the list and I hope these innings can serve as inspiration for the Australian Batsmen in the upcoming test series. Perhaps by the end of the series we will have a new innings for the list?