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Monday, 18 October, 1999, 17:44 GMT
1995-96: England throw it away
Mike Atherton and Jack Russell take a breather during their epic Wanderers stand

The end of the Apartheid era brought England to South Africa in 1995-96 for their first official tour since the imposition of the worldwide sporting ban.

First Test - Centurion Park

Brian McMillan and Allan Donald celebrate dismissing Robin Smith for 52
Centurion Park promised much for England at the start of the Test series - but ultimately delivered little.

Up until an electrical storm washed out play on the second evening, England had had much the better of the match.

Graeme Hick had dominated the batting with a hard-hitting 141 that was supposed to be his breakthrough innings.

No further play was possible over the next three days and Hick never quite did make the breakthrough.

It was also notable for the debut of a certain young red-head by the name of Shaun Pollock.

Preiously known only because of his famous surname, Pollock caused a stir on the first morning when he unseated Michael Atherton after beating him for pace with a bouncer and hitting him on the helmet.

Allan Donald, Brett Schultz and Pollock reduced England to 64-3 before Atherton (78) and Hick fought back with a partnership of 142.

Jack Russell also contributed an unbeaten 50 but England were not able to test the merits of their first innings total of 381-9 declared.

Second Test - The Wanderers

Captain defiant: Atherton holds out for a magnificent 185 not out
The second Test has become known as Atherton's match, the epic which, though only a draw, felt like an England victory.

With South Africa 477 runs ahead, Hansie Cronje left himself five sessions in which to bowl England out and seemingly complete the most straightforward of victories.

But almost 11 hours later, Michael Atherton was still there, holding fort on 185 not out.

The match had been drawn and the series was still locked at 0-0.

For all the heroics of Atherton and Jack Russell - the wicketkeeper doggedly kept Atherton company for most of the final day - it was a match that South Africa should have won.

The fact that they did not still haunts Cronje.

South Africa's first-innings total of 332, in which Daryll Cullinan scored 110 and Dominic Cork took 5-84, was par for the course. England's reply of 200 plainly was not.

The lead took on match-winning proportions when South Africa scored 346-9 declared in their second innings - but even here the indications that the home side had missed a trick became apparent when Brian McMillan wasted time by selfishly crawling to a century.

Russell had time to complete a world record 11 catches in the match.

England would not have lasted two days - they should not have lasted five sessions - but they did.

Cronje juggled all his bowlers, again and again. Atherton and Russell held out and were jointly awarded the man of the match award.

Third Test - Kingsmead

Alec Stewart fends off a Shaun Pollock bouncer in the rain-hit third Test
After the epic at the Wanderers, the third Test in Durban turned out to be a damp squib.

England were just taking the initiative when rain washed out the fourth and fifth days.

It was, with the benefit of hindsight, England's best chance to have taken the series.

South Africa, who won the toss, should have been bowled out for 150, but reached 225 on the second day with Mark Ilott taking 3-48 and Peter Martin 4-60.

England, in reply, had reached 152-5 when the rains returned. Graeme Hick had just struck his sixth four in his 31 not out and was looking good to give England a sizeable first-innings lead.

This match was also of interest for the return of Robin Smith to his home town.

He could not have played a more nervous innings, swinging wildly at the first ball he received, edging over the slips for four.

Somehow he made it to 34 before being caught at second slip by McMillan.

Fourth Test - St George's Park

Smiles from South African captain Hansie Cronje as England hold on
The fourth Test in Port Elizabeth turned out to be the most closely-fought match of the series.

It was also notable for the international debut of Paul Adams, the Cape Coloured chinaman bowler, who had only played in a handful of games for his province, Western Province.

South Africa took the early advantage by powering their way to 428 all out on the second day, with two half-centuries and two scores of 49 from their batsmen, and then a jaunty 84 from 89 balls from their wicketkeeper, Dave Richards, which all but knocked the stuffing out of their opponents.

England's reply was an inadequate 263 which could have been even worse were it not for vital contributions from Jack Russell and Richard Illingworth which took them past the follow-on mark.

But the quest for quick runs - and a markedly better bowling display by England - limited South Africa's second innings to 162-9 declared, leaving England a target of 328.

Realistically, there was only time to draw the match and, after Michael Atherton had spent almost three hours in scoring 34 runs, this was plainly England's only aim.

Alec Stewart hit a timely 81 and, at 189-3 from 92 overs, England had saved a match for the second time in the series.

Still locked at 0-0 going into the final Test the psychological advantage seemed to lie with England.

Fifth Test - Newlands

Shaun Pollock sees off Jack Russell as South Africa win the series
After all the hard work put into keeping the series alive until the final Test, England threw it away over the course of three days of sloppy, irresponsible cricket in Cape Town, where they lost the final Test by 10 wickets.

Firstly, England allowed themselves to be bowled out for 153 on one of the better batting surfaces in the country.

Then, when they were given the opportunity to force their way back into the match, they were unable to take it.

South Africa were 171-9 with Dave Richardson and Paul Adams at the crease.

Devon Malcolm, the "Dark Destroyer", who had been kept so much in the dark to that point that he had only been trusted in the second Test, was brought on to take final wicket.

The result was a spine-breaking partnership of 91.

Time and again, Malcolm charged in and let fly wild half-volleys outside off stump.

Adams flailed his bat and made contact to the boundary. Malcolm snarled and Adams winked back.

That was the last straw for England and it was no surprise that they collapsed meekly in their second innings to 157 all out, with Shaun Pollock taking 5-32.

England were not helped by a couple of questionable decisions but, over the course of a closely-fought series full of drama and pathos, the team with the greater self-belief - and probably the greater desire to win - had finally and deservedly triumphed.

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Cronje turns back on Glamorgan

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