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Cronje savours moment

By Barry Richards

20 June 1998

THERE are always moments to savour in Test cricket, so yesterday surely made Hansie Cronje a happy man.

Captain Confident is a crown he wears easily although his own form recently would have caused concern. Forty six for four is a perilous position, but through disciplined batting and a touch of luck Cronje and Jonty Rhodes fashioned out a partnership of rare class.

The contrast between the two is obvious but the bowlers found it hard to fathom and they constantly rotated the strike, making line and length difficult.

Cronje is a model captain, prepared to take the hard decisions and lead from the front with disarming modesty. He has assumed the mantel of team leader without changing the man. He has empathy for situations and is quick to praise both his own team and the opposition.

The only hint of outward frustration during his captaincy was in Adelaide last season, where South Africa played superbly only to come away without a trophy. It was a travesty for the team and rare for the captain to show his anger.

His focus is always on the team and he is constantly reminding each and every player that their role is as important to success as anyone's. No wonder South Africa are feared and have a reputation for fighting to the death which is the envy of all other countries.

As a batsman he sometimes appears heavy-footed, much like Graeme Hick, but the tougher the situation the less technique is required and more 'bottle'. Cronje would get in any world XI if that were the only criterion.

The England bowlers were always fancying themselves to get him out. And his record against them is below his own bench-mark, but yesterday he went some way to correcting the situation.

Short balls were in reasonable abundance - Cronje is a candidate with his heavy footwork - but when the bowlers hit the wrong place they paid dearly.

His driving at times is imperial but is very upright, which led to his dismissal, contrasting with Rhodes whose weight distribution has improved beyond recognition. Cronje played well, perhaps not at his best, but who could argue about the value on the day when England threatened to destroy South Africa's top-order.

Cronje in his quiet way coached and cajoled Rhodes through a difficult period when Jonty was playing a shot to almost every ball, but did not seek to negate Rhodes' positive attitude.

He, more than anyone, would be delighted for Rhodes and will feel better he has passed a searching examination. A repeat of the 1994 Lord's result would be a fitting reward for both.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 20 Jun1998 - 06:28