D’Oliveira legacy lives on

2009-12-15 10:14
Arthur Turner
Arthur Turner

South Africa and England go head to head in the first Test starting at Supersport Park this week, and when one looks at the performances of the two teams since they last met in England in 2008 when the Proteas were victorious, I think the series is too close to call.

Since then South Africa have powered to their first ever Test series win in Australia, but also been badly beaten in the return series in South Africa. The Proteas have not played a Test series since.

England, on the other hand, have lost series’ in India and in the West Indies, but did win the Ashes series in England earlier. But were they the better team, or did a new look Australian team make mistakes at crucial stages to hand them the series? The series averages certainly suggest the latter.

The two teams are very closely matched. Both have strong batting line ups, but questions remain regarding the ability of both attacks to take twenty wickets to win a Test.

If the South African attack performs to its true potential there should be no reason why they should not take twenty wickets. This is the area where South Africa has the advantage and this could be decisive in the series.

On the previous tour in 2004/05, England won the Test series 2/1 against a Proteas team that was not nearly as settled and experienced as this team. In fact England only won this series due to a poor final day at the Wanderers when Matthew Hoggard ripped through the Proteas batting line up.

Even though the Proteas have recently struggled in the limited overs format and lost the Test series to Australia in South Africa, they still have a very good record, and team, in the Test arena. All in all it should be an enthralling series between two good Test teams and old foes.

I believe it very appropriate that the teams play for the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy. It was a great tragedy, both morally and in cricketing terms, that Dolly, as he is fondly known, had to move to England to play international cricket. He enjoyed a great Test career making his debut at nearly 35 years of age, and went on to play in 44 Tests, scoring 2484 runs at an average of 40.06. A youthful Dolly, in normal circumstances would have meant so much to South Africa in the late 50’s and 60’s when the team needed this sort of talent.

It is also a tragedy that the 78 year old D’Oliveira will not even be able to follow the series or know that the series is named after him because he suffers from Alzheimer’s, currently living in a care center in Worcester.

It is also unfortunate that this legacy lives on today, with South African players, like D’Oliveira, Robin Smith and Alan Lamb did all those years ago, still leaving the country to play international cricket for other countries. Many of the younger modern day players fear the quota system and leave for what they perceive more secure cricket pastures. The England top order is ample proof of this.

Arthur is a former cricket administrator and current player agent.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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