St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - SA Reaccepted
So it was, that from the 26 till the 30 December, 1995, England played again at St Georges Park.
It was a match which seemed headed for an exciting finish, but which ended disappointingly, with both sides ultimately opting for caution.
There was nevertheless much good cricket in a match notable for the debut of Paul Adams, at 18 years 340 days the youngest man to play for South Africa.
The match also re-established Port Elizabeth as a Test centre, with a total of 58 000 spectators enjoying not only the cricket but the musical talents of the St Georges brass band, a group of musicians from local churches who had first made their presence heard during night matches at the ground.
The Eastern Province board provided the musicians, who played almost throughout the match, with what seemed increasing enthusiasm and volume. There were a handful of complaints but most spectators enjoyed the atmosphere.
At times the main stand which dominates the western side of the ground was a swaying mass of people dancing to the music. The players of both sides also claimed to enjoy the music.
Adams earned his first cap at the expense of the barely-older Kallis, while the replacement Gallian came into the England side for the injured Crawley. With the match starting in overcast blustery conditions, South Africa made a cautious start, although Kirsten interspersed watchful defence with regular boundaries.
Hudson was caught behind shortly before lunch and Cronje managed only one scoring stroke from 27 balls before driving to short cover.
With Kirsten caught at slip four runs later, South Africa had struggled to 89 for three at just over two runs an over. Cullinan and Rhodes restored some stability.
Cullinan, with successive sweetly-timed drives on either side of mid-off against Ilott, broke the clamp of the bowlers and Rhodes seemed to be recovering his best form.
Rhodes hooked Cork for a splendid six but immediately pulled the same bowler hard but straight to Smith at midwicket to fall one short of his fifty and earn an unseemly send-off from the bowler.
For the third time in his Test career Cullinan perished in the nineties, cutting at a wide delivery from Cork, who was bowling with the second new ball, but McMillan and Richardson batted soundly. Richardson, batting fluently, was on course to score his second Test century until he was unluckily caught off pad and glove, the ball seeming to hang in the air while Russell scampered to make the catch.
Although the other tailenders prospered, Adams, who had been given a raucously enthusiastic welcome, was involved in a mix-up with Donald and was run out without scoring.
South Africa's innings had lasted until well after tea on the second day.
Stewart was out to Pollock's second delivery, pushing outside off stump. Pollock struck again the next morning, having Gallian caught at first slip after he and Atherton had taken the total to 50 in 28 overs.
Thorpe batted brightly before presenting Adams with his first Test wicket, pulling a short ball to midwicket. Atherton seemed to be grinding his way towards another century before he was given out caught behind, following an Adams "chinaman".
Graphic evidence that the England captain was displeased with the decision was seen in the form of a battered plastic chair that Atherton passed at the top of the stairs leading to the dressing room.
Hick, Russell and Illingworth all spent time at the crease but South Africa had a healthy lead of 165 when they started their second innings 50 minutes into the fourth day.
It was South Africa's intention to score quickly to build on their lead but they were frustrated by superbly disciplined bowling from Martin. The fast bowler started with a classic dismissal of Hudson, delivering four balls well wide of the of the batsman before bringing one in closer but swinging away which Hudson edged to the wicketkeeper.
Martin, by simply not providing the batsman with anything to hit, induced a second wicket in similar circumstances when Cronje also allowed himself to be overcome by frustration.
After seven overs, Martin had the astonishing figures of 7-7-0-2. Cullinan, too, was tied down before being stumped off Illinworth. Cork claimed three wickets in an impressive burst and South Africa were in trouble at 69 for six.
The implacable Kirsten, though, was unruffled at the other end and found a spirited partner in Pollock, who played with typical aggression.
England went ever more on the defensive, with seven men on the boundary at one point for Kirsten. South Africa's eventual declaration after an unimpressive batting display set England a target of 528 off 99 overs.
It seemed to offer an intriguing prospect although Atherton's ensuing caution might well have been evinced by South Africa's travails in trying to speed up proceedings on a slow pitch. On the final day Atherton batted soundly and Stewart brightly, although the latter had some anxious moments, particularly against Matthews. At first drinks break they had advanced the total to 63 off22 overs, at which point the required rate was 3.44 runs an over.
Without taking undue risks, it seemed, England might well play themselves into a position from which they could strike for victory. Unaccountably, however, they opted for defence, with only 17 runs coming off the next 19 overs.
Atherton broke a sequence of four successive maidens immediately after lunch by hooking Matthews for four, only to be Ibw to the next ball. Gallian came out obviously intent on taking no chances and the match petered out, being called off with seven overs still available.