Proteas’ Oz 2008 heroes: Where are they now?

2018-12-27 11:11
Mark Boucher (File)

Cape Town – South Africa’s Boxing Day Test match against Pakistan at Centurion marks a particularly auspicious occasion in the country’s cricket history: 10 years since their first ever Test series triumph in Australia.

It was in the equivalent-period contest of the 2008/09 season, at the faraway and imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground, that Graeme Smith’s inspired charges took a shock, but decisive 2-0 lead in the three-Test series to confirm the snapping a bogey stretching back to 1910/11 on Aussie soil.

Coached by Mickey Arthur -- ironically now on the Pakistan balcony -- the Proteas especially stunned the MCG festive-season faithful because they engineered the victory from a truly backs-to-the-wall situation against Ricky Ponting’s home outfit.

It had seemed for all money, earlier in the pulsating contest, as if the Baggy Greens were hurtling toward a levelling triumph, instead, after SA’s series-opening victory in Perth.

Replying to Australia’s bulky first knock of 394, the Proteas had wilted to 184 for seven – still in some peril of a follow-on – before possibly their most titanic, game-swaying tail-end fightback of all time.

Unfancied willow-wielders Paul Harris and Morne Morkel played their fulsome part, too, but the really big, Aussie ego-popping event was a remarkable alliance of 180 for the ninth wicket between JP Duminy, playing only his second Test match, and fast bowler Dale Steyn.

Both would register what continue to be their career-best scores in the five-day format: Duminy 166 as last man out and Steyn 76. Suddenly the tourists had posted a fairy-tale 459 and established a stranglehold they would never really loosen from that point onward – they romped to a dazzling nine-wicket win.

Cherry on top for what remains his most complete showing in an illustrious Test career, the still-active “Phalaborwa Express” earned man-of-the-match by posting respective five-fors (match figures 10/154).

Here is a reminder of the troops who masterminded that sensational victory, with an update on what they’re up to a decade onward …    

Graeme Smith

Current age: 37

MCG Boxing Day Test: 62 & 75

Series: 326 runs at 65.20

The big left-hander quit international cricket rather suddenly in 2014, during a home Test series against Australia, after leading the Proteas for more than 10 years and from the unprecedented age of 22. Nowadays he is a popular, assertive presence in television commentary booths around the globe and also began dabbling in the business landscape by launching his “Biff’s Big 6” firewood product. He has also been doing his bit recently for Aids awareness.

Neil McKenzie

Current age: 43

MCG Boxing Day Test: 0 & 59no

Series: 121 runs at 24.20

McKenzie, who switched successfully to the top of the Test order for SA fairly late in his career after a longer stint in the middle berths, retired from all forms of cricket in early 2016, although he had quit the international landscape some six years earlier. Immediately expressing his desire to continue serving the game, he had a spell as the Proteas’ batting coach and more recently has been batting consultant to the Bangladesh national team.

Hashim Amla

Current age: 35

MCG Boxing Day Test: 19 & 30no

Series: 259 runs at 51.80

It is widely expected that the still-active Amla will end his international career after a final crack at a World Cup in England in the middle of 2019. For the first time, however, in recent months, doubts have been expressed about whether the once metronomic runs-accumulator – he has been on the top-flight treadmill for around 14 years -- will even make it that far after a marked pattern of personal statistical decline in both Test and limited-overs cricket. The home, all-formats series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka this summer will be important in the ace right-hander quelling (or not) those fears.

Jacques Kallis

Current age: 43

MCG Boxing Day Test: 26 & DNB; 1/55 & 2/57

Series: 187 runs at 37.40; 7 wickets at 38.28

The great all-rounder played his poignant final Test for the Proteas against India at Kingsmead in late December 2013 and his final one-day international a few months later. He stayed on the Twenty20 franchise circuit until 2016. Although his main obsession since retirement appears to have been golf (certainly based on his occasional social media posts), he has not been completely lost to cricket, where he currently serves as head coach for IPL side the Kolkata Knight Riders. He also remains enthusiastic figurehead of the Jacques Kallis Scholarship Foundation, for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

AB de Villiers

Current age: 34

MCG Boxing Day Test: 7 & DNB

Series: 243 runs at 60.75

Still one of the biggest drawcards in the game, the dashing right-handed batsman dropped a bombshell by retiring from international cricket – via his official Twitter page – several months ago. Rumours inevitably still swirl that he might have a rethink ahead of CWC 2019, although that may be based more on hope among his many devotees than expectation. In the meantime, De Villiers has stayed active on the T20 circuit, including leading the Tshwane Spartans recently in the inaugural Mzansi Super League.

JP Duminy

Current age: 34

MCG Boxing Day Test: 166 & DNB

Series: 246 runs at 61.50; 1 wicket at 14.00

Duminy signalled his intention to quit all multi-day cricket in September last year, to focus instead on his ongoing lustre for the white-ball fare. Although injured for the duration of the inaugural MSL (when he did some SABC TV commentary), the experienced “finisher” and useful off-spin bowler is expected to be back at his ODI post for the Pakistan and Sri Lanka challenges, and then also for the World Cup.

Mark Boucher

Current age: 42

MCG Boxing Day Test: 3 & DNB

Series: 122 runs at 30.50

The record-hogging wicketkeeper and nuggety batsman was forced into premature retirement from all cricket after a freak accident on the 2012 SA tour of England, where a flying bail seriously injured his left eye during a match against county side Somerset. But after a stint as wicketkeeping coaching consultant with Kolkata Knight Riders, he earned the head-coach mantle at the Titans in 2016 – a role he still commands.

Morne Morkel

Current age: 34

MCG Boxing Day Test: 21 & DNB; 1/89 & 2/46

Series: 9 wickets at 42.66; 62 runs at 15.50

The lanky pace bowler was almost certainly in the form of his life when he stepped down from the international fray after an influential role in the 3-1 home Test series triumph over Australia last season. But he has continued to look a reinvigorated figure – no doubt to the regret of many compatriots – in a new role with Surrey in county cricket; he helped mastermind their advance to the Championship title (first time since 2002) in 2018. He is also active on the global T20 circuit.

Paul Harris

Current age: 40

MCG Boxing Day Test: 39 & DNB; 1/38 & 0/47

Series: 10 wickets at 38.70; 47 runs at 11.75

So often under-rated for the run-choking job he did at one end while the Proteas’ seamers prospered in turns at the other, the tall left-arm spinner played his last of 37 Tests, following a four-year career at that level, in 2011. Two years later the Harare-born competitor completed his first-class service with the Titans. Currently also an astute television pundit and commentator, Harris is involved professionally in Celbux, a banking software company.  

Dale Steyn

Current age: 35

MCG Boxing Day Test: 76 & DNB; 5/87 & 5/67

Series: 18 wickets at 26.16; 118 runs at 29.50

The primary architect of the famous MCG win, Steyn has defied many glass-half-empty observers who felt there would be no way back from his serious bowling-shoulder injury issues that laid him low for lengthy periods over the past two years or so. Instead he has looked very close to his best again, and will be drooling at the prospect of being let loose on Pakistan and Sri Lanka on home soil over the next three months.

Makhaya Ntini

Current age: 41

MCG Boxing Day Test: 2no & DNB; 2/108 & 1/26

Series: 9 wickets at 50.00; 35 runs (no dismissals, no average)

One of the beating hearts of the Proteas’ attack at both Test and one-day international level for a period of more than a decade, the “Mdingi Express” finally chugged into the sunset from a highest-level perspective in early 2011. He kept going for the Warriors at domestic level for a little longer, but more recently has had spells as a TV commentator and also in coaching: he was bowling and interim coach with the Zimbabwe national team before being asked to step down. He also heads the Makhaya Ntini Academy near East London and recently popped up briefly on ‘Isidingo’.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket


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