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Monday, 18 October, 1999, 17:51 GMT
South Africa player profiles
Allan Donald celebrates the wicket of Graeme Hick at Trent Bridge in 1998

South Africa are out to exact revenge on an England side who snatched a series victory from their grasp in 1998.

Here are 15 of the leading players who will be in contention for places in the Hansie Cronje's Test team.

Hansie Cronje - captain
Age: 30
Teams:Orange Free State, Leicestershire
Right hand bat; Right arm medium

Even before South Africa had been readmitted into international cricket in 1991/92, Cronje had been identified as a future captain of the national side.

However, for the first time since taking over from Kepler Wessels at the age of 25, there are now doubts over both his desire to continue at the helm, and the desire of others that he should do so.

For all that, Cronje remains a figurehead for both youngsters and seasoned pros. A man of unyielding principals, he will not allow himself to be dictated to and is likely to jump before he is pushed.

Despite having recorded only six centuries in his first 59 Tests, he has scored his runs at the healthy average of over 38, and, almost always, at a good rate, too.

His medium pace dobbers are better suited to the one-day game than Test matches - but expect the odd breakthrough wicket.

Expect also a stubborn opponent to the last.

Shaun Pollock
Age: 26
Teams: Natal, Warwickshire
Right hand bat; Right arm medium-fast

Has developed into a true allrounder: a player good enough to be selected as a batsman or a bowler at Test match level.

Will also take over the captaincy from Hansie Cronje when the time comes.

He is one of the very best seam bowlers in the world. Bowling from close to the stumps, he can move the ball both ways and he possesses a slippery bouncer that has left a few red-faced batsmen on their backsides in the past, notably Mike Atherton on the South African's Test debut.

A total of 133 wickets from 33 Tests before the series against Zimbabwe is no mean return for the freckle-faced red-head who, it was said by some in 1995, owed his selection to nepotism alone.

His father, Peter - chairman of selectors at the time - and uncle, Graeme, were two of the very best.

Only the strength of South Africa's batting line-up has prevented Pollock from making further progress with the bat.

But, with an average above 32 and a top score of 92, expect a Test century some time soon.

Daryll Cullinan
Age: 32
Teams:Derbyshire, Gauteng, Western Province, Border
Right hand bat; Off spin

A talented strokemaker who came of age with an innings of 275 not out against New Zealand last winter - the highest Test scorer ever made by a South African.

It was, perhaps, fortunate for Cullinan that he did eventually play an innings that will set him apart from others because he has carried with him for some time the tag of "unfulfilled talent" for some time.

Like the West Indies' Carl Hooper, Cullinan has the infuriating habit playing strokes that have the loose-tongued talking of genius before, in a moment of hot-headed madness, he manages to get himself out with an indiscreet stroke.

His powers are waning somewhat now and his days in the South Africa side may be numbered but he is more than capable of the match-winning innings to which England are so vulnerable.

Allan Donald
Age: 33
Teams: Warwickshire, Orange Free State
Right hand bat; Right arm fast

Donald could be the key to the series for South Africa; he could also be their more notable absentee.

The paceman broke down during matches five times for Warwickshire in various attempts to bring himself back to full fitness after the World Cup.

Eventually he gave up and returned home before the season had finished to undergo an operation on his troublesome ankle.

When they heard that he could be absent for the first two Tests against England if he had the operation, the United Cricket Board of South Africa refused to allow their strike bowler to go through with it.

Only time will tell if the gamble will pay off.

Was Man of the Series when South Africa toured England in 1998.

Still a potent force, though now more grey than white lightning. Homing in on his target of 300 Test wickets (265 before the Zimbabwe series) after which he will retire.

Gary Kirsten
Age: 31
Team: Western Province
Left hand bat; Off spin

Disciplined and correct left-handed opening batsman vital to the stability of the side. Has struggled for runs recently but the selectors are likely to stick with him.

Scored 257 runs at an average of more than 37 against England in 1998, not a bad return on the face of it, except that 210 of those runs came in one painstaking innings at Old Trafford. Will have to be more consistent in the future.

Has, perhaps, made more of his abilities than many believed he would when he came onto the scene as a limited, slow-scoring batsman.

An average of over 40 in more than 50 Test matches tells its own story. Time and again he has been the bedrock of the innings.

Kirsten's fielding can easily be overlooked but his speed over the ground and sharp reflexes close to the wicket can rival the Jontys and Herschelles of this world.

Jonty Rhodes
Age: 30
Team: Natal
Right hand bat; Right arm medium

Believed to have been too limited a batsman to truly make the grade at Test level, Rhodes is still there, bubbling away in the covers and propping up the middle order in moments of crisis.

It is the sense of joy he brings to his cricket that makes him such an engaging personality.

In a team often characterised by the dourness of the captain, Hansie Cronje, Rhodes adds the effervescence that is vital to a healthy balance.

Everyone remembers footage of Rhodes involved in spectacular run-outs or catches - but it is as a batsman that he would most like to leave his mark.

Against England, in 1998, he most certainly did that with 367 runs at an average of a fraction under 60, including a century in the closely-fought Test at Lord's.

The wrong side of 30, time is finally catching up with this live-wire.

This series could easily be his swansong.

Jacques Kallis
Age: 24
Teams: Glamorgan, Middlesex, Western Province
Right hand bat; Right arm medium-fast

If he is not already, Kallis will become the foremost all-rounder in the world game.

Like Pollock, a true batsman and bowler, but with the potential to become the best in the team in both disciplines.

Made his Test debut four winters ago when England were last in South Africa but he is still only 24 and he is still some way off his peak.

A beautiful batsman to watch when in full flow, at ease with shots all around the wicket, though the cover drive and pull shot stand out.

Showed his worth for Glamorgan when finally he recovered from injury after the World Cup.

His National League form was particularly impressive, averaging 96.80 from seven matches.

A smooth bowling action allows him to move the ball both ways at a deceptively sharp pace. Catches flies at second slip. Will dominate if he stays fit.

Paul Adams
Age: 21
Team: Western Province
Right hand bat; Chinaman/googly

Adams is the "Frog in a blender" that so confounded England when they toured South Africa in 1995/96.

It may have been only eight wickets from two Test matches, but it was his extraordinary bowling style - left-arm wrist spin, with his head somewhere under his left armpit and pointing towards mid off when the ball is released - that most captured the imagination..

He got through 107 overs in those two matches, with an economy rate of just 2.15.

England's batsmen were speechless and duly lost a series they had fought so hard to keep to 0-0 by the time of the final Test.

It has not been such an easy ride for Adams since. In and out of the side, he has often struggled for form. Once batsman have figured out the geometry of his action, they have, in truth, been able to survive with relative comfort.

Could yet play a part this winter. A Cape Coloured, will always be closer to selection than some through the board's quota system of selection.

Mark Boucher
Age: 22
Team: Border
Right hand bat; Wicketkeeper

A young and resourceful wicketkeeper, has already suffered highs and lows in his Test career.

Came into the side with a sequence of half-centuries but has often struggled for runs since.

The selectors kept faith, however, and were repaid with a vital century in a low-scoring Test against West Indies last winter. (England selectors please take note).

He has taken some stunning catches standing back but can, at times, look more of a stopper than a keeper.

Struggled in England when the ball swung after it passed the batsman.

Dropped a sitter off Michael Atherton which proved to be the turning point of the Test which settled the series in Engand's favour in 1998.

Only 22, has a long and seemingly successful Test career ahead of him.

Lance Klusener
Age: 28
Team: Natal
Left hand bat; Right arm medium-fast

The man everyone will remember as both the star and the choker of the World Cup.

South Africa, their last pair at the crease, were just one run away from the final with four balls remaining when Klusener lost his head and, from the non-striker's end, started hurtling towards Allan Donald.

The ball had only dribbled to mid on; Klusener was run out and Australia were cock-a-hoop.

It was an agonising way for Klusener to sign off from the tournament he had dominated.

Four times in nine matches he was named Man of the Match, indeed he was Player of the World Cup, and yet he was the face of South Africa's very public defeat.

That should not detract from the extraordinary abilities of the "axe- man", a left-handed clubber capable of taking attacks apart and a zippy medium-pace bowler. Will be out to prove a point.

Herschelle Gibbs
Age: 25
Team:Western Province
Right hand bat; Right arm medium

Was perhaps fortunate to have returned to Test cricket when, following the South African board's policy never again to go into a match with an all-white team, he was selected to face West Indies in the second Test last winter as an opening batsman.

To his credit, Gibbs has cemented his place in the side on form alone.

His breakthrough innings was an unbeaten 211 against New Zealand in Christchurch, followed by 120 in the very next Test - and that after enduring an average of less than 18 after his first seven Test matches.

Struggled against England in 1998, scoring a fine 60, including 42 in boundaries, but failed to get into double figures in four of his six starts.

Can contribute with the ball but his greatest asset in the field is with his breathtaking reflexes at backward point.

Many believe him to have overtaken Jonty Rhodes as the world's best fielder.

Steve Elworthy
Age: 34
Teams: Northern Transvaal, Transvaal, Lancashire
Right hand bat; Right arm fast-medium

A late developer, could well be the bowler to benefit if Allan Donald fails to maintain full fitness throughout the series.

In New Zealand last winter, when Donald broke down, Elworthy stepped in to take eight wickets in the decisive Test of that series.

Played a season of county cricket for Lancashire, although he failed to make the impact expected of an overseas player. Was not seen as good enough to make the side for the NatWest final.

Made his Test debut against England in 1998, but took just one wicket for 79 in the match.

Capable of hitting out effectively in the lower order. Not a player England should underestimate.

Alan Dawson
Age: 29
Team: Western Province
Right hand bat; Right arm medium-fast

Another who has come of relatively late in his playing career, at first-class level at least.

Was drafted into the World Cup squad after the late unavailability of Makhaya Ntini but should have been included from the outset.

His fast medium bowling proved instrumental to Western Province winning the South African domestic first-class league.

It was with the bat, however, the he hit the headlines in the SuperSport final against Border.

Coming at number nine, with his side struggling at 84-7, he struck an incredible 143, his maiden first-class century.

Has not yet been given a chance to prove his worth at Test level but was a key member of South Africa's successful Commonwealth Games-winning side.

Suffered a serious car accident in his last year of school which left him with one leg shorter than the other.

Dale Benkenstein
Age: 25
Team: Natal
Right hand bat, Off break; Right arm medium

An bit of an unknown but another in the seemingly endless line of all-rounders coming out of South Africa.

Became the first South African to play club cricket in Barbados, an experience which, he said, helped him play a match-winning innings of 69 in the fifth one-day international against the West Indies.

Not yet trusted in a Test match but has tasted success in limited-overs cricket but one the younger brigade coming through.

Played as a professional for Burnley in the Lancashire League where he enjoyed his time with the bat but was held back in his bowling by a persistent back injury. Cane bowl both seam-up and off spin.

Nicky Boje
Age: 26
Team: Orange Free State
Left hand bat; Left arm orthodox

An experienced and consistent left-arm spinner, having made his first- class debut in 199/91, but has not yet made the transition from one-day international to Test match level.

With the retirement of Pat Symcox, and the doubts over the effectiveness of Paul Adams, this could be Boje's moment to step into the spotlight.

Has gone through the ranks of the South African schools team and A squad, and has been a regular tourist with the full national side over the years.

The selectors must decide whether they truly believe he has what it takes to succeed at the top.

Predominantly a bowler but more than capable with the bat. Scored a first-class century and five fifties for Orange Free in the 1998/99 season.

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See also:
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
1995-96: England throw it away
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South Africa - A unique selection policy
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'Think tank' role for Atherton and Stewart

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