Allan Donald wasn’t called the “White Lightning” for nothing. On most days he would make batsmen jump around like clueless bunnies and instill a sense of fear in their minds.
One such occasion was the second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground during the 1997-98 tour of Australia that saw one of the most hostile bowling spells in history.
South Africa in their first essay had managed a decent total of 287 and the Aussies in reply were 211 for the loss of 3 wickets. It was Mark ‘Elegant’ Waugh in the middle, batting on 94, and giving him company at the crease was brother Steve. The Proteas had struggled with their bowling, with their strike bowler Donald carrying on despite an ankle injury. Although the spin duo of Pat Symcox and Paul Adams had kept things tight, captain Cronje, as always, looked up to Donald – the war horse – for a break-through, and entrusted him the second new ball.
It was always an uphill task to unsettle the very calm and elegant Mark Waugh, who was looking comfortable and getting set for a big one. As always, the game had a surprise in store. The “White Lightning” from the Randwick end steamed into bowl, with fire in his eyes; it was obvious that he was giving it his all. The first six balls that Donald hurled at the Waugh brothers had sent them ducking for cover, badly bruising their knuckles and ribs. It was as if the brothers were caught in the middle of a battlefield. The calm Mark Waugh suddenly looked like a startled deer blinded by search lights. As it was on the cards, one such ball hit Mark near the back of his head and sent him down to the ground like a dead duck. It seemed as if Donald had delivered his knock-out punch.
But this was Mark Waugh! In what was an amazing piece of batsmanship, he got back on his feet in a jiffy – minus any expression of pain or discomfort on his face. All he attended to were his trousers! Lightly dusting them with care.
“Mark you fool, call the fizz and get your skull checked, leave the trousers to the laundry men!” was the first thing that crossed my mind. Again, mind you, this was Mark Waugh. This was his way of silently signaling Donald that it was he who was on 94 and it was the South Africans who were on the mat, and that the only thing his spell could do was rub some dust on his pants – nothing else!
At no point did Waugh seem in a mood to throw the momentum away to one hostile spell of bowling. Such was his casual attitude towards his personal injury, that it diffused the pressure to a great extent. Mark did go on to get his third century against the Proteas in that innings. Of course, he did take a few more blows to his body from Donald for not acknowledging his hostility.