Sat, 05 Dec 2020

SA largely dodged Dean Jones' batting wrath

25 Sep 2020, 21:42 GMT+10

A dashing character first and foremost at the crease, Australia's late Dean Jones hardly lacked his admirers even across the "big ditch" of the Indian Ocean in key rival nation South Africa.

Just one good example, perhaps, of the esteem in which he was held in these parts came in a tribute tweet on Friday - following Jones's death at 59 by heart attack in Mumbai a day earlier - from a more recent former Proteas player, Rory Kleinveldt.

"Dean Jones down the track and over the top! One of my favourite batsmen along with Viv (Richards) as a kid in the late '80s and early '90s. Proper entertainer. RIP Deano," was the burly all-rounder's tribute (@RoryK_9).

Kleinveldt correctly identified Jones's heyday, too ... one which largely skirted activity against still-apartheid South Africa as a result.

The Melbourne-born right-hander was highly controversially side-lined from Australia's Test plans despite still being notably in his prime and aged only 31 when he played his last of 52 Tests (from 1984, and average 46.55) against Sri Lanka at Moratuwa in September 1992.

That was a few months after SA had made their own return to favour in that format, against West Indies in Bridgetown, Barbados, but just over a year short of the first post-isolation clash between the great southern adversaries at Jones's home venue of the MCG in late December 1993.

It meant that Jones only got to tackle South Africa at one-day international level: in 13 of his total tally of 164 appearances, which involved 6,068 runs at 44.61.

Of those 13 instances, Jones was on the winning side six times and lost the other seven, something reflected in him seldom, in truth, taking the SA attack to the cleaners in the way he did so many others around the globe.

The charismatic Victorian managed three half-centuries against us, with a top score of 98, and modest average of 30.00 (including an even lower 21.57 in South Africa itself).

Against Sri Lanka, for example, he averaged an astonishing 109.87 from 17 ODIs, while his career average against England was 53.05 and against India 42.52.

But he had a very "mixed bag" time against South Africa, whom he tackled across three major tournaments: once-off in the Australasian-staged World Cup of 1992, five times in a Benson & Hedges tri-series also involving New Zealand (in Australia), and then a further seven times in an eight-match bilateral series on our shores in early 1994.

The unforgettable World Cup clash, of course, was South Africa's stunning debut at that level under Kepler Wessels' leadership at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where they thrashed the host nation by nine wickets.

Jones was curtailed to 24 runs - dismissed by Brian McMillan - on that occasion.

In the January 1994 triangular series, he started with a bang at Brisbane, getting that previously-mentioned top score against the country of 98, although he was bowled by off-spinner Dave Rundle as he pursued the ton-up mark.

Further scores of 10 (Perth), 3 (Melbourne) followed, before he added 79 and 25 in the key second and third-leg finals at Sydney, where the Aussies pulled back a 0-1 finals deficit to seize the trophy with a 2-1 triumph in the showpiece matches.

But the fast follow-up, strictly bilateral series in South Africa would also become Jones's last.

An unusually elongated, eight-match series, it was shared 4-4 and wouldn't be the batsman's happiest.

Jones registered 42 (Johannesburg), 5 (Centurion), 67 (Port Elizabeth), 8 (Durban), 8 again (East London), 13 (PE) and 8 (Cape Town), before being dropped for the decisive match in Bloemfontein (the Aussies won, to square the tense combat) and promptly announcing his ODI retirement.

South African fast-medium bowlers Eric Simons and Craig Matthews could claim to have had his number in that summer: each dismissed him three times, to go with one run-out.

*Follow our chief writer: @RobHouwing

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