England’s South African Connection

Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012 by Sanya Michelangelo in Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

England and South Africa have been contesting test matches against each other since 1889. Behind England and Australia, it is cricket’s second oldest rivalry, and one which has seen high drama both on and off the field. One of the intriguing aspects of this sporting contest is the succession of South African-born players which have gone on to achieve huge success representing England. And with this year’s “World Number One” series almost finished we thought we’d take a look at five of the best.

Basil D’Oliviera – debut 1966
Born in 1931 in Cape Town, Basil D’Oliviera’s cricketing achievements transcended the sport. He was the captain of South Africa’s non-white national team but due to the apartheid policy he was unable to join the main team. After migrating to England in 1960, he began playing first-class cricket for Worcestershire in 1964 and became a British citizen. He was selected for the English team in 1966 and made a solid start to his test career. However, in 1968, his presence in the team led to a controversy ahead of England’s tour to South Africa as the ruling white minority government refused to receive a team featuring a ‘Cape Coloured’ cricketer. The cancellation of the tour contributed to the eventual sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa and was a significant moment in the opposition to the oppressive regime. He went on to play 41 tests for England, scoring five centuries and 15 fifties, and also took 47 wickets. His legacy is commemorated in the eponymous trophy created in 2004 which is played for by South Africa and England.

Tony Grieg – debut 1972
Born in Queenstown, South Africa, Tony Grieg qualified to play for England because of his Scottish parentage. A charismatic player, his 6’6” height made him tower over all his players and in the mid-1970s, many believed that he was the best all-rounder in cricket during his playing days. Having played successfully for England, he was appointed captain in 1975. His swashbuckling style, joy for the game, and his talent with the bat and the ball made him a very popular cricketer. These traits have now made him into one of the best cricket commentators of the current generation. His most successful series was in 1976-77, when England beat India in all three tests with a huge margin.

Allan Lamb – debut 1982
Born to British parents in South Africa, Allan Lamb initially played first class cricket for the Western Province, and then as an overseas players for Northamptonshire. Since his native country was banned from international cricket due to apartheid policies, he immigrated to England in 1978 and within four years he was a member of their international team. He played 201 matches for England and was a recognised batting expert against fast bowling. He excelled in the ODIs and will be remembered for hitting an incredible 18 runs off the last over against Australia, in the 4th game of the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1987, to pull off a stunning England victory.

Robin Smith – debut 1988
He was another cricketer who was unable to play for South Africa due to the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa. Born of English parentage, he played for England from 1988 to 1996. Famed for his ferocious square-cut, he was a consummate player of fast bowling, though famously susceptible to spin. He still holds the record for the highest England innings in an ODI with 167 runs. When he was dropped from the test team in 1996, he had the highest average among his England team mates and many felt it was a premature end to his career. His score of 175 runs in the test against the West Indies in 1995 is believed by many to be his finest innings.

Andrew Strauss – debut 2004
Strauss moved to England from South Africa in 1983, when he was six years old. Called in to play for England in 2004, he went on to become their most successful captain in 2009, after a short inglorious stint in 2006. His calm nature and his knowledge of the intricacies of the game have helped him guide his team through a series of good tours, and he begun 2012 in style with two consecutive centuries. Although the current series versus the country of his birth has put his captaincy under strain, as at the time of writing a loss was on the cards, with the current South African team arguably the most talented in the world.

Kevin Pietersen – debut 2005
Kevin Pietersen, after voicing his anger against the racial quota system, moved to England and since then has gone on to become one of England’s most valuable players. Frank and outspoken, but also insecure, Pietersen has had plenty of highs and lows with the England dressing room and fans. But his talent is undeniable – he was hailed as ‘England’s greatest modern batsman’ by the Guardian newspaper, and holds a host of run-scoring records. His career best 227 in the second test at Adelaide in 2010 helped England to win the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

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