Malcolm on that 1994 Oval Test, those nine wickets and making SA ‘history’

first_imgBy Richard EdwardsIN retrospect, it might have been better for someone to tell Fanie to forget what he was planning and pitch it up,” says former South Africa pace bowler Craig Matthews.Unfortunately for South Africa’s batting line-up, Fanie de Villiers had the whiff of revenge in his nostrils and Devon Malcolm was just about to cop it.It was late August 1994, with the sun beating down on a rock-hard Oval surface when de Villiers delivered that fateful delivery, a bouncer that hit Malcolm squarely on the Three Lions adorning his helmet.It was rumoured to be revenge for the England man hitting Jonty Rhodes in South Africa’s first innings. Whatever the reason, the usually mild-mannered Malcolm was not a happy man.“I’m pretty easy-going,” he tells The Independent. “But even when Allan Donald, who’s a good mate of mine, came up and asked me if I was okay, I swore at him and told him where to get off.”Malcolm insists he uttered the words ‘you guys are history’; Darren Gough, his partner at the other end, maintains that the threat, which remains one of the most well-known phrases in English cricket history, never left his mouth.Whatever he said, the South Africans were left in no doubt that they had better muster all the protective armour they could, before they stepped out to bat for an innings that would decide the direction of their first series in England since 1965.A thrashing in the opening Test at Lord’s – a match which became synonymous with the dirt in Mike Atherton’s pocket – had once again heaped the pressure on coach, Ray Illingworth, and the skipper. A drawn Test at Headingley did little to alleviate that and meant that South Africa arrived at the Oval on the cusp of an historic triumph.While England had once again stumbled their way through the summer, Malcolm had spent most of his kicking his heels around the county circuit, bowling for his county Derbyshire and biding his time before the call, inevitably, came for the Oval Test.“I had played one Test match against New Zealand at Trent Bridge earlier in the summer but was then left out,” he says.“But when we lost that match against South Africa at Lord’s I was thinking to myself that I was going to get a recall because that’s what happened in the ‘90s – you were in one minute and out the next. I was in good form in the run-up to that match and was taking plenty of wickets in county cricket and I knew this was a match that England needed to win.“The thing about the Oval pitch was that it was a very good track to bat on because the bounce was so consistent. Once you were in, you were going to make runs but I always did pretty well there because the harder you hit the pitch the more you got out of it.”South Africa’s first-innings effort of 332 was neither a match-winning effort or one that made a draw inevitable. And when England made 304 in reply it was game on.“Myself and Darren Gough had made a few in the first innings and had really attacked the South African bowling,” says Phil de Freitas. “We wrestled the initiative back from them. I reckon we set Devon up perfectly for what was to follow!”With Malcolm silently seething following his blow on the head – and with rumours flying around the South African dressing room that England’s spearhead was listening to the national anthem in his headphones before coming out to bowl – the endearingly inconsistent man from Derbyshire tore in like a man possessed.(Independent)last_img

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