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Friday, January 17, 2020

20 years ago: Revisiting cricket’s darkest chapter at Centurion

While England went on to win the match in a thrilling finale, months later a confession made by the then Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje tarnished the reputation of the sport, which has always been referred to as a 'gentleman's game.'

By: Sports Desk | Updated: January 16, 2020 10:26:54 am
After multiple players testified against Hansie Cronje, the South African cricket board banned him for life. (Screengrab)

One of cricket’s darkest chapters unfolded 20 years ago this week, that has been brought back into focus thanks to a column by former England captain Michael Vaughan. On day five of a dying Test match in Centurion, South Africa captain Hansie Cronje made an irresistible offer to England’s Nasser Hussain- chase 249 in a day.

The hosts had already secured an unassailable 2-0 lead after winning the first and fourth match, and the final contest was a dead rubber. But Cronje’s decision turned everyone’s attention to the final day. England successfully chased it down in a nailbiting contest to record a memorable Test match victory, but it turned out to be one that they would love to forget.

Months later, Cronje confessed to fixing the game which tarnished the reputation of the sport. Cronje admitted that he made a deal with a bookie, who had asked him to get a result out of the contest, despite three of the five days being washed out.

After multiple players testified against Cronje, the South African cricket board banned him for life. Less than two years later, Cronje died in a plane crash.

Former England cricketer Michael Vaughan, who was part of the playing XI, has written in a column that he felt ‘odd’ after their side were handed ‘a sniff’ to win the match.

“I was stunned when it broke a few months later that Cronje was doing anything to get a result as a part of his deal with a bookie. There had been whispers of match-fixing before, but it was something you never really expected to see first hand,” the English cricketer wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

What happened in the match?

Day 1: England won the toss and decided to field first. South Africa scored 155/6 on an opening day before the play was stopped due to rain.

Day 2: Washed out without a single delivery being bowled

Day 3: Washed out without a single delivery being bowled

Day 4: Washed out without a single delivery being bowled

Day 5: Cronje asked the visiting captain Nasser Hussain to chase a mutually agreed target in 76 overs, which was accepted by the latter. The Proteas declared their innings on 248, which was followed by England’s declaration on 0/0 and then Cronje forfeited South Africa’s second innings, which meant England required 249 to win in 76 overs.

England started their chase on a shaky note, losing opener Mike Atherton early for 28. Things got worse for the visitors as they were soon reduced to 102/4. However, a crucial 126-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Vaughan and wicketkeeper-batsman Alec Stewart helped England recover.

READ | Four South African cricketers banned for match-fixing

The partnership was finally broken by right-arm pacer Nantie Hayward, as he removed Stewart on 73 and reduced England to 228/5 in 69.3 overs. The hosts then showed signs of a comeback as they sent back three more batsmen, including Vaughan, inside the next twelve runs.

With another nine runs required and just two wickets in hand, Darren Gough and Chris Silverwood guided England to victory with just five balls remaining. Vaughan was adjudged man of the match for his crucial knock of 69 from 108 deliveries.


South Africa: Mark Boucher (wk), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Hansie Cronje (c), Daryll Cullinan, Gary Kirsten, Paul Adams, Lance Klusener, Nantie Hayward, Pieter Strydom

England: Darren Gough, Michael Vaughan, Darren Maddy, Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain (c), Alec Stewart (wk), Andy Caddick, Alan Mullally, Chris Silverwood, Mark Butcher, Chris Adams

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