The best of South African cricket’s pinch-hitters

Pinch-hitters are rare in modern cricket where the top seven are generally very well equipped to push up the tempo when it is required.

The best of South African cricket’s pinch-hitters

The era of the pinch-hitters was a glorious time for cricket’s sloggers, that is widely considered to have begun during the 1992 World Cup.

The antics of these men given license to swing inspired changes to the way batting is approached in limited-overs cricket.

Pinch-hitters are rare in modern cricket where the top seven are generally very well equipped to push up the tempo when it is required.

The 1990s and early 2000s were the time of the pinch-hitter in ODI cricket, coinciding with the introduction of fielding restrictions.

The Proteas had a number of allrounders capable of hitting the long ball, and during the 1990s, especially experimentation with the top order was common.

Here we look at some of the most successful pinch-hitters in the green and gold.

Not quite pinch-hitters

The Richardson and Palframan experiments

As the Andrew Hudson and Gary Kirsten opening partnership gradually dissolved, South Africa experimented with a number of openers who displayed varying levels of intent.

Neither Dave Richardson nor Steve Palframan were expected to send the new white ball flying to the boundaries, but both were trialled as openers.

Richardson played three innings as an opener but the most noteworthy event during those short innings was his bizarre hit wicket dismissal in Harare.

Andy Bichel celebrates taking the wicket of Dave Richardson. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Palframan spent much of his career in Richardson’s shadow but was afforded a short run as an opener as Bob Woolmer hunted for a long term replacement behind the stumps. Trying to kill two birds with one stone, Palframan kept wicket and opened the batting.

An injury to Richardson on the eve of the 1996 Cricket World Cup saw Palframan included in the squad. His batting proved inconsistent, and he did not produce his best form on the international stage.

The second coming of Mike Rindel

After an initially underwhelming run in the ODI team’s middle order, Mike Rindel made waves as an aggressive opening batsman.

Rindel had reinvented himself as an explosive opener during the summer of 1994/95. He may not have been a pinch-hitter by the strictest definition, but for all intents and purposes, he fulfilled the same role.

He shared a memorable 190-run opening stand with Kirsten in the second final of the Mandela Trophy quadrangular series, scoring 106 and earning the man of the match award on the day.

Four of the best pinch-hitters

Lance Klusener 

It might also be a little unfair to call Lance Klusener a pinch-hitter considering that the term always carried connotations of wild slogging. Klusener was an aggressive but highly skilled batsman.

Klusener spent the majority of his ODI career batting between positions six and eight in the order, but he scored both his hundreds in the format when asked to come in early.

The allrounder inspired the batting of plenty of T20 batsmen and his ability to dig out yorkers made him one of the most feared players of his generation.

Nicky Boje

The month of October 2000 was the height of Nicky Boje’s career as a pinch-hitter as he took New Zealand apart on their tour of South Africa.

Boje smashed two centuries in the first three matches of the series in perhaps the best sustained pinch-hitting performance.

He would bat at three for 18 ODI innings and at four for a further six and scored 869 runs in the pinch-hitting role.

Pat Symcox

Pat Symcox was a regular in a revolving cast of pinch-hitters used during the mid-1990s enjoying his peak during the 1996 Sharjah Cup.

Symcox made 61 off 49 balls, being promoted to number four after failure by Andrew Hudson and Daryll Cullinan left South Africa 20 for 2 in the final against India. He allowed Gary Kirsten to play his natural game in a 95 run partnership that set up victory for South Africa.

Andrew Hall

Andrew Hall enjoyed a sustained run as a pinch-hitting opening batsman when he first broke into the ODI side and enjoyed enough success to almost qualify as a specialist batsman.

Towards the end of his career, he slid back into the lower-order as Graeme Smith emerged as an opening partner to Herschelle Gibbs.

Hall’s 81 against Sri Lanka in Galle indicated that he had all the skills to bat up the order, but he often sacrificed his wicket in pursuit of quick runs up front.

Honourable mentions – pinch-hitters

Tracking every single pinch-hitter South Africa has ever used is a nearly impossible task because of the sheer number of them.

Shaun Pollock was often touted as a potential pinch-hitter, but he was rarely asked to go up the order. One of the exceptions included his 90 against Pakistan in Multan in 2007.

Richard Snell’s brief spell as a pinch-hitter came as his bowling career was endangered by injury and Derek Crookes promotion up the order was thoroughly forgettable.

Albie Morkel played just three innings at number three but scored 97 against Zimbabwe and 41 against New Zealand when asked to come in at first drop.

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Source : The South African More