WHEN DEV RIPPED THROUGH ‘EM

South Africa blown away at the Oval in ’94

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - In the third in­stal­ment of our new series, we look back on one of the game’s most po­tent spells of bowl­ing by an English­man

There was pre­cious lit­tle to cheer for English cricket in the Nineties but on one glo­ri­ous day in the South Lon­don sun­shine, Devon Mal­colm put a smile on the face of ev­ery cricket lover in the coun­try – as long as they weren’t sup­port­ing South Africa.

So fa­mous have Mal­colm’s deeds be­come in the Oval Test of 1994 that he even named his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy af­ter the words he ut­tered fol­lowed a blow to the head by a Fanie de Vil­liers.

As South Africa’s slip cor­don watched on and chuck­led, Mal­colm – the most unas­sum­ing of fast bowlers – sim­ply turned to them and said:“You guys are his­tory.”

Af­ter a dis­mal show­ing in the tourists’ first in­nings, when Mal­colm took 1-81 and found him­self treated with some­thing ap­proach­ing dis­dain by South Africa’s tail-en­ders, they could have been for­giv­ing for laugh­ing it off as an empty threat.

“He got a rol­lick­ing from Mike Ather­ton (the then Eng­land cap­tain) af­ter that,” says for­mer Eng­land wick­et­keeper, Steve Rhodes, cur­rently in Bangladesh work­ing with Eng­land un­der Trevor Bayliss.

“Athers wanted him to bounce Al­lan Don­ald and De Vil­liers but he kept pitch­ing the ball up and get­ting driven down the ground.”

Ather­ton’s bowlers were get­ting used to be­ing put to the sword by a South African side on their first Test tour of Eng­land since 1965. Ham­mered by Ke­pler Wes­sels’ side by 365 runs at Lord’s, Eng­land’s bowlers hadn’t dis­missed the Proteas for un­der 330 in four in­nings that sum­mer as a South African side short on aes­thet­ics, but long on de­ter­mi­na­tion and pa­tience, dom­i­nated.

Eng­land, in con­trast, had strug­gled to cope with the un­re­lent­ing hos­til­ity of Don­ald and nag­ging con­sis­tency of De Vil­liers, Craig Matthews and Brian McMil­lan.

It had also been an un­com­fort­able series for the cap­tain, with the ‘dirt in the pocket’ af­fair at Lord’s over­shad­ow­ing South Africa’s tri­umphant re­turn to St John’s Wood.

By the time the evening ses­sion of the third and fi­nal Test rolled around, Eng­land were star­ing down the bar­rel.

“I think we were 200 odd for seven when I walked out, about 130 be­hind,” says Phil DeFre­itas.“Keith Fletcher, the Eng­land coach, told me to see if I could see things out un­til the end of the day.

“Just as I was leav­ing the chang­ing room, Ray Illing­worth (the then chair­man of se­lec­tors) told me to just go out and play my nat­u­ral game.

“By the time I met Goughie (Dar­ren Gough) in the mid­dle we had both de­cided to have a bit of fun.”

Cheered on by an Oval crowd who had clearly been en­joy­ing their beers in the sun af­ter a brief rain de­lay that morn­ing, the pair wres­tled the ini­tia­tive from South Africa for the first time in the series, tak­ing lib­er­ties with Don­ald and giv­ing Wes­sels some long-over­due cause for head-scratch­ing.

“The crowd were lov­ing it,” says DeFre­itas.“It was one of those pas­sages of play that re­ally sticks with you. The at­mos­phere was ab­so­lutely elec­tric and it gave us the mo­men­tum we needed to get stuck into them with the ball.”

DeFre­tais scored 37 off just 31 balls, while Gough re­mained un­de­feated on 42 as Eng­land pulled up just 28 short of South Africa’s first in­nings to­tal of 332. Mal­colm was the last man out but was more con­cerned with his treat­ment at the hands of South Africa’s bowlers than his dis­missal.

“He was fizzing,” says Rhodes.“You could tell that when he was mark­ing out his run. I re­mem­ber when he caught and bowled Gary Kirsten for his first wicket – I turned to who­ever was near­est to me and said that this could be Devon’s day. Par­tic­u­larly as he wasn’t best known for his catch­ing.”

What fol­lowed was one of the most re­mark­able per­for­mance from an English bowler in the his­tory of the game. Run­ning in like a man pos­sessed, Mal­colm didn’t so much rat­tle the South Africans as leave them bat­tered and bro­ken.

A tum­bling catch by DeFre­itas at fine leg got rid of Peter Kirsten to leave South Africa 1-2. More sig­nif­i­cantly it left Han­sie Cronje, the golden boy of South African cricket, on strike.

“If you look at the footage he was in the per­fect for­ward de­fence po­si­tion, but the ball bowled him half an hour be­fore he put the bat down,” Mal­colm later re­called.

Watch­ing from be­hind the stumps, Rhodes had the per­fect view of Mal­colm’s mis­siles.

“I was stood a fair way back but I had been fur­ther back that sum­mer when Goughie was bowl­ing at Old Traf­ford against New Zealand,” he says.

“You could see, though, that ev­ery­thing was sud­denly click­ing for Devon.”

When that hap­pened Mal­colm was as dan­ger­ous and fast as any bowler in world cricket. The only is­sue for Eng­land, was that it hap­pened all too rarely – al­though his un­sym­pa­thetic han­dling by a suc­ces­sion of regimes didn’t help.

Since be­ing an­nounced to the Press as ‘Mal­colm Devon’ by Ted Dex­ter af­ter his first call-up in August 1989 – he took 1-166 on his de­but at Trent Bridge – Mal­colm had been in and out of the Eng­land Test side.

He was fizzing – you could tell when he marked out his run. And when he bowled Gary Kirsten for his first wicket I said this could be his day

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Take my hat off to you! Devon Mal­colm ac­cepts the ap­plause af­ter leav­ing the field with fig­ures of 9-57. Inset: Mal­colm in full flow

Off you go! Han­sie Cronje is bowled through the gate for a duck

He’s fly­ing: But Al­lan Don­ald paid the price with bat and ball

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