Cape Town – The late Bert Vogler and Pat Symcox, aged 53 but
long retired, are South Africa’s best answers to Australian teenage, tail-end
batting sensation Ashton Agar.
Last-wicket partnerships and feats by No 11 batsmen in Tests
are the talk of the cricket planet at present following debutant Agar’s extraordinary,
record-smashing innings of 98 in the first Ashes Test against England at Trent
His massively revitalising first-innings stand of 163 for
the Baggy Greens with established batsman Phil Hughes, from a parlous 117 for
nine, is also guaranteed its place now in folklore.
South Africa doesn’t come terribly close statistically to
matching either Agar’s individual effort at the very bottom of the order or,
indeed, the weight of his alliance for the final wicket with Hughes.
Still, as far as individual landmarks by No 11s in Tests are
concerned, our country can at least sport a “top-fiver” in the form of Vogler
(fifth itself), and occupancy of 10th position by Symcox on the list of best
scores by the last man across all Test-playing nations.
Agar bumped out West Indies’ Tino Best (95, also against
England at Edgbaston in 2012) from his loftiest perch and into second.
Vogler, who died just after World War II in 1946, registered
62 not out from the No 11 berth in a Newlands Test against England in March
Symcox, however, has provided South Africa’s best knock in
that position in the more modern, post-isolation era, courtesy of his 54 in a
drawn Test against Australia at Adelaide in February 1998.
Ironically it was the only occasion in 27 Test innings in
which Symcox actually batted at the very tail of the order – he was normally
good enough to do duty as a No 8 or 9, as evidenced by his decent Test average
of 28.50 and registering of a famous century once against Pakistan at the
Wanderers when he and a raw Mark Boucher turned around a ropey innings with a
huge ninth-wicket stand in 1997/98.
That occasion at Adelaide Oval may go down, too, as one of
the deepest batting line-ups ever assembled by South Africa: the Nos 7-11 were
Jonty Rhodes, Brian McMillan, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Symcox
(although wicketkeeper Dave Richardson had admittedly operated as a No 6
South Africa are much further off the radar as far as
highest 10th wicket record partnerships are concerned: our best only
occupies 16th position in history.
That was pretty recent -- the unbeaten 107 posted by AB de
Villiers (278 not out) and Morne Morkel (35 not out) against a tiring Pakistani
attack in Abu Dhabi in November 2010.
The Proteas got close to the 600-mark, batting first in a
drawn clash, before sounding the declaration bell.
The only other time that South Africa have notched 100 runs
or more for the last wicket was at Headingley in 1929 when century-maker Tuppy
Owen-Smith and No 11 Sandy Bell (26 not out) posted 103 against England.
In terms of best knocks by No 11s on debut, where Agar has
also rewritten the record books, South Africa’s own premier player,
Isipingo-born Percy Sherwell (22 not out, against England at Johannesburg in
January 1906) fits in at joint-17th place globally with Australia’s
Ian Callen, whom some may remember had a stint with Boland as a lower-order
all-rounder in the 1980s.
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