Newlands: Nirvana for No 11s

2011-11-15 14:14

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 record-making occurrence.

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 healthier 244.

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.