He came up with telling blows

G. VISWANATH

Shaun Pollock's five for 36 against Australia was a great effort.-V.V. KRISHNAN

SHAUN POLLOCK was in the forefront of South Africa's rivalry against Australia in the semifinal of the World Cup `Carnival of Cricket' in 1999. A dolly catch Herschelle Gibbs `was not in control' of, (offered by Steve Waugh) had blotted South Africa's copybook in the last of the Super 6 matches at Leeds. The fielding lapse cost South Africa dear and eventually was responsible for coming in the way of Hansie Cronje's team not entering the final. Steve Waugh took the match away from Cronje's grasp at Headingley.

South Africa's survival in the World Cup did not depend on the outcome of its last Super 6 league match against Australia. It had already booked a semifinal berth. But the defeat made it a must-win situation for it in the semifinal in order to progress further. Two engrossing back-to-back matches between Australia and South Africa were hardly expected to take place, but that's how it turned out to be; the second at Edgbaston actually producing a nerve-racking tie, after Pollock bowled his heart out to restrict Australia to a modest 213 in 49. 2 overs.

Pollock rocked Australia's boat at the very outset dispatching Mark Waugh for zero. He shared the new ball with Steve Elworthy (10-0-56-0). Australia recovered from the first blow, but did not find runs easy to come by because Jacques Kallis bowled a brilliant spell to finish at 10-2-27-1. Australia had recovered and was ready to accelerate things with Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan in the middle.

But Pollock put paid to their aspirations. He had Steve Waugh (56) and Michael Bevan (65), Tom Moody (0) and Shane Warne (18) in a spell of 9.2-1-36-5. His blows were telling. It first broke the 90-run stand between the Australian captain and the World's No. 1 batsman with the best average in one-day cricket. Donald bagged four wickets (10-1-32-4) as South Africa had a chance to make the final.

Pollock until then had appeared to be a run of the mill variety. But he was in top form in the semifinal. For the first time he was on the big stage of international cricket. Historians and critics are quick to remind fans the element of pedigree in the success of a sportsman. Cricket is replete with instances of fathers and sons and uncles and nephews playing for the country and with distinction.

When the redhead Shaun Pollock emerged out of the provincial ranks and earned his first cap for South Africa, troubled top England batsmen, notably Michael Atherton three years before the World Cup in England, the public in the veld nation were reminded of the deeds of father and fast bowler Peter Pollock and uncle and brilliant batsman, Graeme Pollock. They lavished praise on the talented and developing fast bowler who shared the new ball with Donald.

Pollock was laid low by injury after his debut against England. There has not been a modern fast bowler --- with an unconventional and semi-side-on action --- whose career has taken off smoothly without being bothered by a host of complaints ranging from back problem, side strain, hamstring and to foot injuries. Pollock was not an exception. He came through the first bout with his body in good shape and proved his potential and combined well with Donald.

It was not long before that the South African cricketers discovered that there was only one team better equipped than it and most importantly the passion and style of playing the game almost matched with Australia's. For every South African cricketer who was handed the `Protea' cap, the ultimate aim was to outsmart the Australian.

A contest between Australia and South Africa generates as much interest as the `Ashes' series and an encounter between India and Pakistan. The two World Cup matches between the two proved just that. Pollock's show of spirit went in vain because his side made the same number of runs as Australia did. The legspinning wizard, Shane Warne's outstanding performance of four for 29 from ten overs was equally top class. He dismissed Gary Kirsten, Gibbs, Kallis and Cronje before the dramatic last over at Edgbaston.

Australia's Glenn McGrath (five for 14 against the West Indies), Lance Klusener (five for 21 against Kenya), Saqlain Mushtaq (five for 35 against Bangladesh), Venkatesh Prasad (five for 27 against Pakistan) and Robin Singh (five for 31 against Sri Lanka) were the others who shone with the ball, but Pollock's five for 36 against a top-notch Australian side must be regarded as a great effort.