Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – When Nathan Lyon got his 14
runs as last man to help Australia stave off the embarrassment of a worst ever
Test total at Newlands a few days ago, he also extended a proud little
tradition at the venue.
It was only the eighth instance in Test
match history of the No 11 batsman top-scoring in the innings, as he “swelled”
the Aussies’ abject second knock from a surreal 21 for nine to 47 all out.
Perhaps unnoticed by some cricket lovers in
the wickets-clattering hullabaloo at the time, Newlands amazingly now boasts
three of those eight occurrences.
Just as freakishly, it was also the place
where the phenomenon last raised its head: in the 2004/05 season.
In that instance, the achievement may have
been largely overlooked because Steve Harmison’s cavalier, run-a-ball tonk for
42 in England’s second knock against the Proteas was in an altogether more
beefy total of 304.
All Harmison did was briefly delay inevitable
defeat, after all, as the tourists were chasing an unlikely target of 501 to
win and more senior batsmen like Robert Key (41), Andrew Strauss (39) and
Geraint Jones (38) had “got in” before getting out.
The other Newlands case of No 11
top-scoring came very much earlier – in March 1906 when Queenstown-born
seamer-cum-leg-spinner Bert Vogler cracked 62 not out in a South African first
innings total of 333, also against England.
Somehow the ground is becoming synonymous
with the last man coming to the fore at the crease, even it is not always a
Think back to another South Africa v
England Test, the fifth and final one of the 1995/96 series, which was still
locked at 0-0 going into it.
On that occasion the sides were still
virtually level-pegging as the hosts replied at one stage with 171 for nine to
England’s 153 all out: but then along came rookie “frog in the blender” spin
sensation Paul Adams to assist Dave Richardson in lifting the total to a much
Adams audaciously nudged and smacked his
way to an invaluable 29 in an innings-best partnership of 73 with the
wicketkeeper, giving South Africa an unexpected momentum that eventually carried
them to a 10-wicket victory and thus the series 1-0.