Named after a man inextricably linked with the cricketing histories of both England and South Africa, the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy has served up numerous entertaining series, all starting back in 2004. While recent series in England have gone South Africa’s way, it is the ones at home that will be of concern to supporters, having failed to attain a series victory in both 2004/5 and 2009/10.
Similar to the ongoing series, South Africa were 1-0 down heading into the final three Tests back in 2004/5. Having been comprehensively beaten in the first Test and having attained an admirable draw in the second, the comparisons are eerily similar with the exception of the teams having an extra match to play. When South Africa won by 196 runs in the third match, the series was on a knife-edge at 1-1 and given England’s previous record at the scene of the fourth (The Wanderers), South Africans would have hoped a series victory was within their grasp.
After England amassed a decent 411/8, however, South Africans would have been rather concerned about their ability to match such a total. A change in weather though helped the South Africans gain a minimal lead of 8 and going into the second innings, the match was poised to be a wonderful thriller. When England were 197 for 5 at the close of play on the fourth day however, things looked grim for the visitors but Marcus Trescothick’s marvellous 180 runs steered them into a position of power and left the South Africans with a target of 325 in 68 overs on the final day.
It was always going to be a challenge for South Africa to chase down that rather daunting figure and Matthew Hoggard’s 7 for 61 made it infinitely more difficult. While Herschelle Gibbs’ fighting 98 and Graeme Smith’s 67 were decent scores, the recent of the South African line-up collapsed poorly and England won, taking a series lead into the final match in Centurion. Any hopes South Africa had of levelling the series at Supersport Park were slowly dimmed by the first day being washed out by rain. When England took a 112-run first innings lead, these hopes were almost obliterated. A debut century for new boy AB de Villiers and one for the experienced head Jacques Kallis slowly drew South Africa back into the contest. With only 41 overs in which to force victory in England’s second innings though, the feisty tourists batted out the day and ensured they were series victors.
While South Africa were left to ponder this damaging defeat after a challenging 2004, England, on the other hand, were able to revel in the glory of another series victory after a highly successful, record-breaking 2004 which served them in good stead heading into the 2005 Ashes. When the two tackled each other on South African shores again, however, circumstances were rather different, with South Africa having achieved a morale boosting triumph in England the previous year. Hoping to attain some form of revenge, the English started off the series with a battling draw at Centurion in a game South Africa ought to have won with just one wicket remaining standing for England on the final day. Taking confidence from that hard -ought match, they obliterated South Africa in Durban by an innings and 98 runs in a venue that seems to be a firm favourite for the English.
With the series at 1-0, just as it stands currently, South Africa headed to Newlands and The Wanderers with the same goal they have now, to ensure they won the final two tests. They almost did exactly that with the match at Newlands only saved by England due to the colossal efforts of Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood who batted for a 112-run partnership, eating away 57 overs. Again though, just like it had in the first Test Match, the tenth wicket partnership proved crucial in attaining what was previously seen as a highly unlikely draw for the resolute visitors. Mark Boucher’s behind-the-stump comments of “it’s just like Centurion,” rang true as similarly, just one wicket-taking delivery separated them from victory. South Africa headed into the final game with a chance of only levelling the series, the opportunity to win having heartbreakingly gone.
Much like the punishment England had subjected them to in Durban, South Africa metered out the same in the final test, humiliating England to an innings and 74-run defeat. Bowling them out twice for under 200 and batting only a single time for their 423/7, South Africa were deserved winners of the final Test. While a review controversy threatened to overshadow the game, the South Africans were worthy victors and were left pondering how on earth they had drawn a series they could have so easily won 3-1. Were it not for the admirable heroics that number eleven Graham Onions displayed in both the first and third Tests, South Africa would have been celebrating an emphatic triumph. Instead they were left to applaud the resolute effort of the determined English whose resilience is remembered as simply brilliant in this memorable Test series.
Akin to both 2004/5 and 2009/10, the series lies again at 1-0 in favour of the English and it is yet to be seen whether the next two Tests will produce similar results to those exciting match ups. South African supporters will hope that with a new captain, the Proteas can muster something new that the Basil D’Oliveira series has never delivered in South Africa, namely a South African series victory.