South Africa was one of the strongest teams during the late 1960s. In the famous home series against Bill Lawry’s Australia in 1970, South Africa thrashed them 4-0 thanks to some notable performance from Graeme Pollock, Peter Pollock, Barry Richards and Mike Procter, some of the best players in the world at that time. But then the things turned political and South Africa was banned from participating in international cricket because of the government policy of apartheid. Hence the return series was only possible in 1993-94, once South Africa are back from their ban. It was a well-anticipated series which presented one of the most dramatic test matches in the history of the game. And the climax was played on 6th January 1994.
But the series started with a rain-affected drawn Boxing Day test match in Melbourne. As per traditions, the teams moved to Sydney to play the New Year test match. On 2nd Jan, South African captain Kepler Wessels won the toss and decided to bat first. Andrew Hudson went early but Garry Kirsten and Hansie Cronje added 109 runs in the second wicket. But once Cronje was gone Shane Warne ran through the South African middle and lower order to finish with 7 for 56. South Africa lost their last 9 wickets for just 59 runs and was all out for 169.
Michael Slater led the way for Australia with an uncharacteristic, subdued 92 and was supported by the Senior Pro and captain Allan Border as well as by a young Damien Martin. Australia scored 292 in the first innings and took a lead of 123 runs. For South Africa, their fast bowlers Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers both finished with four wickets each.
South African second innings started in the same fashion with Hudson leaving early and Kirsten and Cronje playing a good partnership. But this time there were more support from the middle order, specially Jonty Rhodes who added key runs first with the wicket-keeper Dave Richardson and later added valuable 36 runs in the 10th wicket with Donald. He remained unbeaten for 76. Warne got another 5 wicket haul to finish with 12 wickets in the match and was supported by McDermott.
Australia started their chase of 117 runs in the evening session on the 4th day. Slater went early, followed by Boon, night-watchman Tim May and Mark Taylor with only 56 runs on board, all 4 wickets were taken by de Villiers. On 6th Jan, South Africa had a dream start of day five when Donald bowled Border before adding a single run to his overnight score. Mark Waugh, Ian Healy, and Warne were out on quick succession and at 75 for 8 the match was evenly poised. Then Martin held one end up when the experienced McDermott focused on scoring runs. They took Australia only 7 runs away from victory when inexplicably Martin played a flashy cover drive which was grasped by Hudson and his 110 minutes vigil was over. McGrath came to bat with lots of tension and anticipation and although he added a run he could not manage de Villiers and gave him a return catch which was happily grabbed by him. It was his 6th wicket in that innings and gave him the Man-of-the-match award.
South Africa showed great character to win the test by just 5 runs. It was almost a hopeless position for them in day four but with their skill and belief, they were able to turn the table and get the result in their favor.