St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - Aussie whitewash, then SA cricket’s wilderness
Aussie whitewash, then SA cricket’s wilderness
THE first time I walked into a stadium to watch Test cricket, South Africa’s so-called last "Springbok team", led by Ali Bacher, were mercilessly flaying Bill Lawry’s Australians at St George’s Park in 1970.
Anyone who knows anything about the game will tell you that watching cricket doesn’t get better or more spectacular than that.
But despite the brightness of the day and the glorious array of strokes on display, storm clouds were gathering for Springbok cricket.
Because of South Africa’s apartheid policy, it would be 22 years before another Test match was played at St George’s Park.
With the newly-named Sahara Oval St George’s hosting the opening Test in the series between South Africa and England this weekend, it is an appropriate time to recall that Test way back in 1970.
The current Test is the 21st being staged in Port Elizabeth and many will argue that Ali Bacher’s team of 1970 were the most talented Springbok team ever to take the field for South Africa.
Imagine Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow, Lee Irvine, Peter Pollock, Dennis Lindsay and Tiger Lance in one team.
When you have all that talent packaged into one team, with shrewd skipper Bacher plotting the tactics, nobody will be surprised that the Australian team of 1970 were whipped 4-0.
But, when they walked off the field in Port Elizabeth after winning the final Test of the series against Australia by a staggering 323 runs, it was to be the end of an era.
None of them would ever play Test cricket again and, as a result, the myth of invincibility has remained firmly attached to Bacher’s 1970 team. Leading the series 3-0, the Springboks came to Port Elizabeth in a buoyant mood and when they won the toss and decided to bat it was no surprise when Richards (81) and Barlow (73) put on 157 for the first wicket.
The Aussies, considering what had gone before, were probably delighted to bowl the Boks out for 311.
But faced with South Africa’s two-pronged pace attack of Peter Pollock and Procter, they were blasted out for 212 in their first innings.
Pollock and Procter picked up three wickets apiece.
In their second innings, South Africa raced to 470 for eight declared as Richards (126) and Irvine (102) tore the Australian attack apart. Irvine and Richards would end their Test careers with the unusual, and tragic, statistic of scoring a hundred in their final Test innings.
The only surprise for the record crowds who packed St George’s Park on each of the five days, was that home town hero Graeme Pollock failed in both innings.
Despite failures of one and four in his final two Test innings, Pollock still boasts the second highest Test batting average in the history of the game.
When Pollock walked off the field at St George’s Park at the end of that Test he had an average of 60.97, second to the great Sir Donald Bradman who averaged an astonishing 99.94.
Richards ended his stunted Test career with an average of 72.57, but doesn’t qualify for the official list of highest Test averages because he does not meet the requirement of 20 innings.
A final thought for the grandees of South African cricket who will be watching the action from the presidential suite this weekend.
Isn’t it time for the Duckpond Pavilion at St George’s to be renamed the Graeme Pollock Pavilion. And for that matter why not have one of the stands at Kingsmead named after Barry Richards.
How about it? It is the least these two true legends of world cricket deserve.
December 18, 2004.