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Michael Atherton survived a fiery spell from Allan Donald to remain unbeaten on 98

When Michael Atherton stood up to White Lightning


On this day in 1998 at Trent Bridge, Test cricket witnessed one of the best on-field battles between a batsman and a bowler as Allan Donald and Michael Atherton faced off.

Drama. Fervour. Anger. Resilience.

Few days in Test cricket have been as captivating as July 26, 1998, the fourth day of the fourth Test between South Africa and England at Trent Bridge. Though South Africa were just 1-0 ahead going into the fourth Test, England had been outplayed in the series by some fiery South African bowling.

At Nottingham, even with South Africa setting a modest target of 247, the odds were against the home side going into the final innings late on day four. Donald took it upon himself to assert South Africa's supremacy.

'White Lightning', as Donald is known, bowled lightning quick and tried to intimidate opener Atherton by coming around the wicket and aiming for his throat.

Donald had Atherton gloving to Mark Boucher, but the umpire did not spot it, much to Donald's fury. The call fired him up and the batsman would see nothing in his half of the pitch anymore as Donald kept bouncing him.

Atherton and his partner, Nasser Hussain, were struck on the body several times as Donald steamed in, constantly throwing words at the batsmen too. But, unlike earlier in the series, Atherton held his ground.

Donald later admitted that he had never felt such adrenalin during a spell. Soon after nearly dismissing Atherton, ill luck followed the bowler as Boucher spilled a catch offered by Hussain. An infuriated Donald gave it his all, peppering the two batsmen, but a wicket eluded him. 

Allan Donald peppered Michael Atherton with bouncers
Allan Donald peppered Michael Atherton with bouncers

England ambled their way to 108/1 by stumps on day four; the following day, they went on to script an unforgettable eight-wicket win with Atherton finishing unbeaten on 98. Donald, for all his fire and fury, had just one wicket.

What they said

Allan Donald: "That spell stands out for me in what was one hell of a tight series. I valued playing against people like Atherton very, very highly because they put a high price on their wicket. You spend a lot of time figuring how you are going to knock them over, then try to make those strategies work. That's what makes Test matches special."

Allan Donald could not hide his frustration after Nasser Hussain was dropped by Mark Boucher
Allan Donald could not hide his frustration after Nasser Hussain was dropped by Mark Boucher

Michael Atherton: "I'd rank that innings, which helped to win the game and the series, up there with my 185* at the Wanderers in 1995 – an intensive personal triumph ... Cricket is a team game but essentially when you have a bat or ball in your hand you are on your own so it has a gladiatorial element – one man against another."

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