18 Jan 2000: Fans watch the action as the sun comes out on the Fifth and final day of the fifth test against South Africa at Centurion Park, South Africa. Mandatory Credit: Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT
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2000 Centurion Test: The Dark Story Behind Brightness of Hansie Cronje, Nasser Hussain, a Leather Jacket

England did win the Test match and the world praised South African captain Hansie Cronje before the later’s real story came out of the hole to put darkness on the bright image.

When the incident took place, it was trusted to be the best sporting decisions, acknowledged by loads of captains and fans all over the world. Two captains after making settlement between themselves had found out a new lane to save Test cricket.

People Hardly Believed What They Observed:

When three days of full rain had spoiled the fun, it had easily breathed new life to keep the spectators engaged in the game more and more. Those leaders who never loved the safety cricket made full interest in that resolution.

Even though, few days later, there had been some rising eye-brows from the ICC in breaching the conduct of the game against Hansie Cronje, one of the two captains, who spoke loudly on his action; “I would be disappointed if this is the attitude and don’t want to part of the game if this’s their thinking.” He also revealed how did his best to add fuel in the extinguished fire. “If this is what the game is about then I feel we have given the spectator something in return for their support.”

Undoubtedly, he received a massive support from the cricketers including the South African coach Bob Woolmer, Alec Stewart who himself was involved in the game in the England side and the bold Sri-Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga; who expected huge success this decision would carry in the 21st century.

The Darkness behind the Bright Picture:

Even though Nasser Hussain led England had killed South Africa’s consecutive 14-match winning streak; Neither Captain nor the SuperSport crowd had protested about the result. “The choice was there and had to be taken.”

If the next story of almost 52000 South African Rands (nearby 2-lakh 57-thousands and 400 INR), a leather jacket and the records of phone calls and dark words didn’t arrive, South African captain “Hansie Cronje” would have found only captain, leader, brand ambassador besides his name; but the fixer word got connected.

What was a thrilling game of cricket unfortunately was transformed into a game high played by the bookies and match-fixers; roughly later on, the ICC conduct of the game was judged to be right.

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The First Day was about South Africa’s Recovery from Early Wounds:

Under grey skies and in juicy bowling conditions, England captain Nasser Hussain winning the toss didn’t hesitate to select fieldling first. The beginning of the first day wasn’t too comfortable for the hosts as they were struggling at 155 for the loss of six wickets when play had to stop due to rain after just 45-overs.

At one point, they were reduced at 55-4 with ducks from opener Gary Kristen and skipper Cronje while Herschelle Gibbs had just 3 besides his name. The English pace attack was enjoying their time but they could provide their openers a chance to come out for batting. Pieter Strydom (30) and Daryll Cullinan with 45 fought back for the Proteas before the umpires called the day off.

Cronje Threw a Deal at Naseer Hussain:

The next three days, if someone would sit in the stands, only water and more water would flow before his eyes with the covers being remained still over the grass. By the time, full sunshine came out of the clouds, it was the last day of the Test match, running it into another boring draw. It was expected that South Africa might declare and gave themselves 10% chance to take all 20 English wickets; even though they had already pocketed the series by 2-0.

However, hardly anyone knew about the scheme of Hansie Cronje who walked across Alec Stewart, the England wicket-keeper, on the stairs that led up to the opponents dressing room and tossed a nice deal of chasing 270-runs in 73-overs to visiting leader Nasser Hussain.

It did make a bit of confusion in the English camp whether it could actually occur. Also, Hussain too wasn’t sure before using the pitch after being free from the covers after three days. Post discussing with coach Duncan Fletcher, and senior bodies of the side, he thought of observing the track with the ball before signing for the deal.

The Trade Received Green Signal from Hussain:

Well, the 22-yard turned out to be bowler friendly and eventually the England leader sent a message to the home dressing room to know if Hansie Cronje had changed his mind. He aimed low and preferred for a 250-chase; to which the Proteas captain agreed without a second thought. Nasser Hussain even though being surprised hadn’t shown any finger on his opposite number. “When we went out there, it wasn’t a spicy pitch so I thought, well, we can chase on here.” Imagined Hussain.

The proposal Cronje made was 245-runs in 76-overs; after Lance Klusner and Shaun Pollock made full use of the batting track under hot sunshine. Finally, England was asked to chase 249-runs.

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The Forfeited Two innings:

There had been some forfeits in the First-Class cricket and England team manager approved the sanction that there had been so such rules about the situation. The South African also spoke with the ICC match referee and decided to go with the proposal.

South Africans were looking at each other being short of bowling options; Allan Border was out of the game due to gout whereas Paul Adams had injured his fingers while fielding.

The Chase that had Two Faces:

Even though it was a beautiful batting track, the Three Lions still had to bat well and when they were placed at 102-4 in the 38th over; captain Naseer Hussain, who had already gone back to the dressing room, was scratching his head in accepting the challenge. Michael Atherton, Mark Butcher and Chris Adams all was watching the tensed game from the hut.

Alec Stewart was joined by a young Michael Vaughan who was pushed down the order for slow batting. Both challenged themselves and began to play sensible but aggressive brand of cricket. The later was so crispy in driving the ball whereas Stewart, like a cucumber, was scoring some valuable runs. The 116-run partnership in around 32-overs came to end when the England wicket-keeper edged to his opposite number.

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England Struggled to get Home:

England even being on a comfortable zone somehow flapped in the middle. They were 236-5, still requiring 13-more runs to touch the victory. Darren Maddy and Andrew Flintoff ran themselves under the bus and two balls later, Pollock snapped Caddick. Vaughan too departed for an excellent 69.

240-8; 2-wickets and 9-runs was the last equation.

After few dangerous runs, Chris Silverwood killed one delivery and by his luck the fielder misjudged it against the sun, just to see it crashing on to the boundary rope.

Now, Gough pulled one to the boundary to seal the game for England; they had broken the boring doorsteps to create the amazing vibe of the Test match. “I saw it at the time as a terrific victory for England.” Remarked Gough down the time lane. “The one thing that stuck to me was why South Africa team had decided to give us a sniff.” Wrote Vaughan in “Daily Telegraph”.

The Next wasn’t Fair at all:

“For the first time in my life, I felt completely flat at the moment of a Test victory.” Atherton wrote in his book. “It wasn’t that I suspected match-fixing but a Test match victory is a thing that has to be earned.”

Some people even though were smelling something fishy, most of the world was shouldering arms with Cronje thanking him to save a Test match. However, on 12th April, the fixing scandal was erupted and three days later, it caught all eyes.

@Addis Army Cricket/ Twitter

He urged me to speak to Hussain about an early declaration.” Said Hansie Cronje about the bookmaker, who could suffer with the drawn result. “He said if we declared he’d give $150,000 to charity.”

After being delighted with the green signal, the book-maker gifted the South African a leather jacket and R50,000 – the price of the Test match.

The sad truth was, even though, the game ended in the most exciting path; people would remember it as a fixed game. Nonetheless, few wonder what would happen if South Africa still somehow notched up a triumph.

Brief Scores:

South Africa 248/8 dec (L Klusner 61*, D Cullinan 46, A Mullally 2-42) & 0-0 (forfeited) lost to England 0/0 (forfeited) & 251-8 (A Stewart 73, M Vaughan 69, S Pollock 3-53) by 2-wickets.

Man of the Match: Michael Vaughan.





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