SA’s Dutch 'nightmare'
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – If you choose to look at it harshly, South Africa’s ugly cricket defeat to the Netherlands at The Hague in 1994 will go down as one of the most ignominious moments in the country’s sporting history.
Fortunately it is not something likely to play on the minds of the modern-day Proteas, gearing up for their second Group B fixture in the 2011 World Cup against those foes at Mohali on Thursday (06:00 SA time).
There were a fair number of mitigating factors, you see, when the national side of 1994 ended their lengthy tour of England with a short stopover – perhaps that should read hangover -- in Holland on September 4.
For starters, the match was an unofficial international against a cosmopolitan “Netherlands XI” which featured players like West Indian-born Nolan Clarke, veteran former Sri Lankan rebel all-rounder Flavian Aponso (he had taken part in the controversial Arosa Sri Lanka tour of then-apartheid South Africa in 1982/83) and one or two Australian journeymen.
It was also artificially agreed that South Africa would bat first because (ironically, considering the unexpected procession that would occur not long afterwards), Dutch officials were nervous about the game potentially being over too quickly!
Certainly the tourists slumping to 87 for seven and finally 134 for eight off their allotted 40 overs, in a rain-curtailed affair, was not in the intended script.
Hansie Cronje was captain in the absence of injured Kepler Wessels, whilst coach Mike Procter also did not make the trip across the Channel.
The Proteas were still relative newcomers from isolation, and many of their ranks thus not used to marathon tours abroad and probably homesick – they had been in England since late June for a three-Test series and many county games, and had lost the final Test at The Oval for a 1-1 outcome, mainly thanks to Devon Malcolm’s famous nine for 57 carnage in the South African second knock.
South Africa were quickly on the ropes on a matting surface at The Hague, losing the cream of their batting for startlingly low returns: for example, current national selection chief Andrew Hudson got a duck, Gary Kirsten nine and Peter Kirsten three.
And they never got back into the match – the Dutch blazed to their target for the loss of just one wicket, Peter Kirsten’s occasional off-spin accounting for big-hitting Clarke for 78.
Craig Matthews, the former SA seamer and also national selector, doesn’t even remember that he had helped wicketkeeper Dave Richardson drag the South African score from below 100 to something a little more respectable with his tail-end 16 not out.
“I suppose you try to block a game like that out of your mind,” he told Sport24 on Wednesday.
“No excuses – obviously we should have won comfortably. But a certain amount of (fatigue) and complacency would have crept in by that stage of the tour.
“I do recall that when Fanie de Villiers opened the attack for us he bowled a bouncer first-up and the opener said something like ‘hey, you can’t do that’, suggesting that short stuff was supposedly not allowed ... it was that kind of artificial occasion.”
Matthews, Proteas fans will be relieved to hear, expects no such shocks when the Proteas play a game of rather greater gravitas against the Netherlands on Thursday.
“I still have certain doubts about this South African team, but I really don’t expect any problems for them tomorrow(Thursday).”
There have been two official ODIs between the countries subsequent to the 1994 “friendly”, and South Africa have won fairly effortlessly each time – by 160 runs in 1996 and then by 221 runs in the last encounter at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.