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26th July 1998: When 'Iron Mike' Turned Into Steel

Cricketnext Staff | Updated: July 26, 2017, 4:07 PM IST
26th July 1998: When 'Iron Mike' Turned Into Steel

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'When Iron Mike turned into Steel..' these were the words used by Scyld Berry in Wisden Cricket Monthly to describe the contest between England batsman Mike Atherton and South Africa's White Lightening Allan Donald.

Both were at the peak of their powers and this was a battle everyone was looking forward to.

South Africa were leading the 4-Test series 1-0 and Hansie Cronje ton had led South Africa to a good total of 374. England replied with 336, Atherton making 58 before being dismissed by Donald who went onto take 5 wickets.

However, Angus Fraser's fiery spell of 5/62, supported by Dominic Cork's 4/6 helped England dismiss South Africa for a paltry total of 208.

Chasing 247 to win, Mike Atherton scored a battling 98 off 277 balls to guide England to a series-levelling win.

The battle between him and Donald was like a heavyweight bout between two boxers. Donald bowled a fiery spell from around the wicket, and should have had Atheron out on 27, a bouncer aimed right at his neck, Atherton took evasive action but the ball ricochet off his glove and Boucher took an easy catch. However, the umpire remained unmoved.

"We both knew he'd gloved it." Donald's disbelief turned to anger. His recollection is that he told Atherton; "You better be f****** ready for what's coming because there'll be nothing in your half." Atherton recalled a more angry message: "You f****** cheat." The two stared at each other, with Atherton determined not to be the first to break eye contact - "Keep staring," he told himself, "he's got to turn away next."

Donald had England jumping, hitting Atherton in the chest and peppering Hussain with the short ball, however, Atherton survived and remained unbeaten to guide England home to level the series.

This proved to be the turning point, as England went onto win the final Test by 23 runs.
First Published: July 26, 2017, 4:07 PM IST
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