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Malcolm's greatest spell

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Malcolm ripped through the South African line-up at The Oval

By Pranav Soneji

History has an uncanny knack of editing quotes for the perfect soundbite - "Let them eat cake", "Play it again Sam", "You guys are history".

The final four words were uttered by Devon Malcolm towards South Africa's chortling slip cordon when he was clattered around the head by Fanie de Villiers' bouncer during England's third Test at The Oval on 20 August 1994.

Only it wasn't quite as clean as that, according to the former England fast bowler.

"I did say something else which I can't repeat, but as it happens I did exactly that," he told BBC Sport.

That was annihilating South Africa's second innings with a spell of 9-57, the then sixth best bowling figures in Test history, propelling England to a series-levelling eight-wicket victory.

How new England captain Kevin Pietersen would love a repeat against the same opposition at the same ground on Thursday 14 years on.

Malcolm's astonishing second innings burst remains the third best bowling figures by an Englishman, surpassed only by Jim Laker's unique 10-53 and 9-37 at Old Trafford in 1956.

J Laker: 10-53, Eng v Aus, 1956
A Kumble: 10-74, Ind v Pak, 1999
G Lohmann: 9-27, Eng v SA, 1896
J Laker: 9-37, Eng v Aus, 1956
M Muralitharan: 9-51, Sri v Zim, 2002
R Hadlee: 9-52, NZ v Aus, 1985
A Qadir: 9-57, Pak v Eng, 1987
D Malcolm: 9-57, Eng v SA, 1994
M Muralitharan: 9-65, Sri v Eng, 1998

South Africa were fortunate to escape with nothing more than broken wickets as Malcolm conjured one of the most ferocious spells of fast bowling ever witnessed.

But had the match been played at a different ground, Malcolm's place in the England XI would have gone to mercurial spinner Phil Tufnell.

The Oval puts the twinkle in fast bowlers' eyes, where pace and bounce flourish in abundance.

Malcolm had only featured once for England during that summer, taking two wickets in an innings and 90-run victory over New Zealand in the first Test at Trent Bridge at the start of June.

But his fractious relationship with England's selectors saw him axed for the next two Tests, losing his place to Northamptonshire left-armer Paul Taylor.

When he was eventually recalled for the final Test against South Africa, who led the three-match series 1-0, the usually laconic Malcolm admitted he was fired up to perform.

"History has shown that most games I have played for England, The Oval has been pretty lucky for me throughout my career," said Malcolm. "Most Test matches there I have taken five wickets. I have this confidence about The Oval."

But his first innings spell of 1-81 as South Africa were dismissed for 332 didn't exactly give his captain, the sanguine Mike Atherton, cause for celebration, according to wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes.

Young Goughy thought his one wicket worth more than my nine, He said 'I reckon I've got the best batsman out'

Devon Malcolm

"Dev talks about getting hit on the head which spurred him on to bowl so fast, but he got a roasting from Mike at the end of their first innings," recalled Rhodes.

"He was bowling at their tailenders, Allan Donald and de Villiers and pitching the ball up and getting driven.

"Mike wanted him to bang a few bouncers into them, but I don't know whether it's the fast bowlers' union, but Devon didn't want to do it.

"I don't know whether that roasting inspired him to bowl faster in the second innings."

In response England reached 304 all out, largely thanks to a stubborn 70-run eighth-wicket stand between Darren Gough and Phil DeFreitas with South Africa's pace trio of De Villiers, Donald and Craig Matthews running riot.

And as the innings drew to its denouement, De Villiers clearly was not in the same fast bowlers' union as Malcolm, launching a sharp bouncer towards Malcolm's helmet.

"I came into bat and I heard one of the guys say 'let him have one'," said Malcolm. "I thought it was a bluff and was expecting a yorker but Fanie bowled the perfect bouncer at my head.

Hansie Cronje is bowled by Devon Malcolm
Hansie Cronje's dismissal gave Malcolm the most satisfaction
"That's when I waved my bat at the slips and I said: 'You guys are history'."

Malcolm's retribution was brutal, ripping through openers Peter and Gary Kirsten, before cleaning up Hansie Cronje to reduce South Africa to 1-3.

"His bowling was very hostile and aggressive, but he bowled very straight," said Rhodes.

"He didn't give the batsman too many options. He got Peter Kirsten with a top edge caught by DeFreitas on the boundary. From that moment on, nobody took him on for the hook shot and he peppered them.

"He bowled the perfect armpit ball to Gary Kirsten, which he ended up lobbing back to Devon. A caught and bowled, which was a rare thing for Devon!"

Although he said all nine wickets were special, Cronje's dismissal is the one that still gives him the greatest satisfaction.

He said: "If you look on the footage he was in the perfect forward defence position, but the ball bowled him half an hour before he put the bat down!

BBC Sport's Pranav S

"A couple of balls before that I went around the wicket and he was fending the ball from around his earholes. Then I pitched the ball up over the wicket, that's what a good fast bowler does because he was tentative from the short-pitched stuff."

South Africa were dismissed for 175 - a total that would have been embarrassing had Darryl Cullinan not made an incredibly gutsy 94.

And it was Cullinan's wicket which prevented Malcolm from emulating Jim Laker and becoming only the second man to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

Instead it was Darren Gough who took the only other wicket, much to Malcolm's genuine disbelief. "He was in my face and I said: 'Dazza, why did you spoil my party?' laughed Malcolm.

"Young Goughy thought his one wicket worth more than my nine, he said 'I reckon I've got the best batsman out'."

Tests: 40
Wickets: 128
Average: 37.09
Strike rate: 66.25
Five-wicket hauls: 5
Ten wickets in a match: 2

With victory wrapped up on the fourth day courtesy of a 134-run second-wicket partnership between Atherton and Graeme Hick, England levelled the series for a confidence-boosting win ahead of the 1994-95 Ashes series in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, Malcolm never reached the same heights again during his international career, playing just 12 more Tests after a very bitter falling out with then England coach Ray Illingworth in 1996.

Fittingly, his final England match against Australia in the 1997 Ashes series was at The Oval.

"I recently played a Twenty20 match for the PCA against the Bajan XI there and it almost clicked again," said Malcolm, now 45.

"I wish I could have the Oval pitch in my back yard, I just love playing there. I feel as if it's my own. I don't care who I'm playing there."

South Africa may have been history, but Malcolm rewrote his own to forever etch himself in England's annals.

see also
South Africa in England in 2008
14 Nov 07 |  Cricket
Malcolm bows out
19 Sep 03 |  Cricket
Farewell to the amiable assassin
19 Sep 03 |  Cricket
Devon built for speed
31 May 02 |  Leicestershire
Adelaide heaven for Malcolm
18 Nov 02 |  History

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