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Cricket World Cup history: Mark Boucher, a reliable presence either side of the stumps

ANALYST
Feature
467   //    18 Jun 2019, 20:43 IST

Mark Boucher was a valuable asset for South Africa
Mark Boucher was a valuable asset for South Africa

Having made the most appearances by a regular wicketkeeper in Test cricket (147), Mark Boucher finished with a record 555 dismissals, including 532 catches. Adam Gilchrist is second with 416 dismissals, inclusive of 379 catches in 96 Tests.

In 295 ODIs, Boucher is fourth with 424 dismissals, behind Kumar Sangakkara, Gilchrist and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Add 19 T20I dismissals, and it totals a mind-boggling 998 dismissals in international cricket, far ahead of the others. If a flying bail had not hit his eye and ended his career, Boucher would certainly have completed 1,000 international dismissals. 

To go with his heroics behind the sticks, Boucher scored well over 10,000 international runs in front of them. He is easily one of the stalwarts of South African cricket.

Boucher is one of the leading wicketkeepers in the World Cup, and invariably scored valuable runs in the lower middle-order - often at a very rapid pace. For a man of his accomplishments, Boucher was remarkably unobtrusive. Through his dedication and fitness, not to mention his skills, Boucher became a role model for all aspiring stumpers.

It was a satisfying World Cup debut at Hove in 1999 as Boucher snapped up Sachin Tendulkar off Lance Klusener. Then, striding in at No. 3 after Javagal Srinath had trapped Herschelle Gibbs early, Boucher soon saw Gary Kirsten being castled by the same bowler.

He dug in and added 46 precious runs with Jacques Kallis. Boucher was bowled by Anil Kumble for 34, having faced 36 deliveries and hit 4 fours and a six. Kallis and the later batsmen ensured a four-wicket victory.

South Africa overwhelmed Sri Lanka next. Still batting at No. 3, Boucher was dismissed quickly for 1 but held two catches.

England were also handed out a drubbing, and now Boucher scored an unbeaten 16 at No. 9, besides snapping up a catch later.

Kenya too were overcome easily in the sylvan surroundings of Amstelveen, Holland, and Boucher was back at one-down without success.

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After four glittering victories came a severe jolt at the hands of neighbours Zimbabwe, with Neil Johnson doing a star turn. Boucher still appeared at the fall of the first wicket, but was unable to get too many runs.

A thriller with Pakistan followed in the super-six stage, with Boucher taking two catches and effecting a run out. It was with the bat that things got exciting after a top-order collapse.

Boucher, now yo-yoing back down to No. 9, joined the irresistible Lance Klusener at 176 for seven with 45 runs needed off 34 balls. They didn't require so many as they romped home with an over still in hand. Boucher got 12 of those runs off 15 deliveries. 

After a comfortable win over New Zealand followed two dramatic matches against Australia. Steve Waugh clinched a heart-stopping win with two balls to spare after Herschelle Gibbs floored a catch that he had all but held.

South Africa’s sterling performances earlier had assured them a semi-final berth. Boucher snapped up four catches, three off Shaun Pollock and the other off Allan Donald, as the Aussies were bowled out for 213 in the last over.

He then joined Klusener with 31 runs required off 25 balls, and three wickets in hand. As Klusener blazed away at the other end, Boucher was bowled by Glenn McGrath for 5.

The match ended in a tie, exhilarating for the Aussies and heart-breaking for the Proteas, as the result of the previous encounter settled the issue. South Africa were out and Australia marched into the final. Boucher had got just a handful of runs and held 11 catches in the tournament.

The 2003 World Cup on home territory was personally fruitful for Boucher, but once again painful for the team as they crashed out after the first stage due to their own follies.

They had the West Indies at their mercy before Brian Lara played a breathtaking innings, and then their slow over-rate resulted in a one-over penalty. Boucher snapped up a couple of catches and then strode in at his appropriate position of No. 6.

He had useful stands with Kirsten and Klusener, eventually falling for a-run-a-ball 49, having struck 4 fours and a six. The one-over penalty cost South Africa dear as they fell three runs short of the West Indies score at the end of the 49th over.

After a 10-wicket triumph over Kenya, there was more disappointment as New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming trumped a brilliant Gibbs hundred with his own breathtaking century.

Bangladesh were also trounced by 10 wickets, and Canada by more than a hundred runs. In the latter game Boucher got the opportunity to play a cameo of 21 and pick up two catches.

South Africa now had to win the last Pool B match in order to qualify for the super-six league. Sri Lanka raised a healthy 268 for nine. Then rain complicated the issue.

Boucher came in at 149 for four after 28 overs and saw another wicket fall immediately. Pollock then helped him add 63 in a little more than 13 overs.

Boucher battled on. With dark clouds hovering overhead, the crafty Muralitharan continued his spell into the 45th over.

The Duckworth-Lewis system was being scanned. Boucher took a run off the first delivery, and then Murali bowled two dot balls to Klusener. Amazingly, the great off-spinner then gave away 5 wides, after which Klusener crossed over for a single. Off the fifth delivery Boucher slammed a six.

The score was now 229 and with rain beginning to fall, the South African think-tank reckoned that they had won the match according to the chart. They signalled to Boucher to play out the last ball carefully, for a wicket lost would have spelled defeat.

Boucher dutifully blocked the delivery. The rain got heavier and play was called off. Boucher was 45 not out off 50 deliveries with 2 boundaries and that six.

Only then did the Proteas learn that they had merely tied the match and not won it. With this, they exited the tournament for a second successive time as a result of a tie.

It was one of the biggest gaffes in the history of the World Cup, as embarrassing as that spilled catch by Gibbs off Steve Waugh’s bat in 1999.

To begin with, that one-over penalty cost them the opening match of the 2003 event. Whether the South Africans were chokers, or whether they committed comical errors, the outcomes in two consecutive World Cups were painful for their supporters.

Boucher had held another 11 catches and played some useful knocks in this edition. 

The South Africans enjoyed themselves at the expense of the trundlers from Holland in their opening fixture of the 2007 World Cup. As Gibbs lashed 6 sixes in an over off leg-spinner Daan van Bunge, Boucher crashed the then fastest fifty of the World Cup in a mere 21 balls.

He remained unbeaten with 75 off just 31 deliveries, having blasted nine boundaries and four sixes. He hammered Billy Stelling for two sixes and a four in an over, before plundering three fours and a six off successive balls in a Ryan ten Doeschate over. His fourth six came off Peter Borren. Boucher and Kallis put on an unbroken 134 in 9.1 overs.

After another easy win over Scotland, the Proteas ran into an Australian team in awesome form. Matthew Hayden smashed the fastest century in the World Cup, and Australia hit up 377 for six, their highest score of the World Cup, with Boucher not conceding a single bye.

This was, at the time, the second-highest total ever in the World Cup without a bye being given. The record stood to the credit of the Bermuda wicketkeeper Dean Minors, who gave away no bye in India’s World Cup high of 413 for five earlier in the tournament.

South Africa pulled off a thrilling one-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the super-eights, and after snapping up two catches, Boucher was handed a first-ball duck by Muralitharan. 

Ireland were easy meat and Boucher got two more catches. But Bangladesh pulled off another upset, with Boucher unable to make an impact. 

Then came another sizzling innings. With fellow wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum having taken away his World Cup record of the fastest fifty by one ball, Boucher bludgeoned a half-century in 21 balls once more, off the West Indies attack this time. He hit Darren Powell for three sixes in the 49th over, with Gibbs adding a fourth.

Earlier Boucher had lofted Ian Bradshaw and Dwayne Bravo too over the ropes. His 52 came off 23 deliveries with two other boundaries.

The Proteas were trounced by New Zealand, but they had the measure of England, with Boucher pouching another two catches. They made their entry into the semi-finals where they met Australia.

South Africa collapsed to 149 all out and Boucher was dismissed for a first-ball duck once more by another great bowler, Glenn McGrath. That was not the way Boucher and South Africa would have liked to have ended their campaign, and a place in the final was to prove elusive yet again.

Boucher was never to be seen again in the World Cup, for Morne van Wyk was picked ahead of him for the 2011 event. Efficient as he was behind the stumps with 31 World Cup catches to show for his exertions in 25 matches, Boucher’s flashing blade, echoed by a strike-rate of 94.07, often delighted the crowds.

He has the fifth-highest dismissals in the World Cup, behind Sangakkara, Gilchrist, Dhoni and McCullum. Boucher was a comforting sight for the Proteas with the big gloves, and also down the order with the willow.

Mark Boucher’s World Cup record:

Matches 25, Highest Score 75*, Runs 381, Average 27.21, Strike-rate 94.07, Fifties 2, Catches 31

Also read – Most ducks in world cup

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