One of the outstanding things about Steve Waugh’s long and illustrious career, is the length itself – over eighteen years. To try and put that timeframe into context in cricketing terms, here are some things to ponder:
Steve Waugh started playing Test cricket when he was 20 years old. For almost half his life he has been a Test cricketer.
Bruce Reid, Merv Hughes and Geoff Marsh debuted in the Test before Waugh. Remember them? They all enjoyed lengthy, successful careers but are long, long gone.
Waugh started playing Test cricket just two seasons after the retirements of Lillee, Chappell and Marsh and just one season after Kim Hughes’s tearful resignation. Those events seem far more than a (cricketing) lifetime ago – and indeed they are.
Steve Waugh played in nine Ashes series, five at home and four away. He tasted defeat in only the first of those series. He was the last Australian Test cricketer playing to have known Ashes defeat – and had been for eight years, since McDermott and Boon played their last Tests in 1995-96.
Steve Waugh has played a staggering 168 Tests – more than any other player. He is one of only three players to have scored over 10,000 runs. His 32 centuries put him equal second on the all time list (for now, equal with Tendulkar) behind Gavaskar.
But while quantity is not necessarily quality, Steve Waugh’s career was of the highest quality. Steve Waugh last summer used the term “defining moment”. In my anthology below, I have tried to chronicle some basic milestones and some defining moments.
Some of the details include twin brother Mark, and while Mark had his own great career, it seems fitting to include Mark in a small way in Steve’s tribute. Brothers playing in the same international team is always a special occasion and the fact that the Waughs are twins seems to have carried extra fascination. In fact, Mark and Stephen played in more Tests together than any other pairing in test cricket.
Steve Waugh made his first class debut in 1984-85 for NSW, having played first grade cricket for the Sydney club, Bankstown
His made his Test debut in 1985-86 in the 2nd Test v India. He scored 13 & 5 and took 2 wickets in India’s first innings.
When Steve Waugh first started playing Test cricket, the team knew only defeat, as Australian cricket was at a very low point.
Waugh averaged 6.5 with the bat for that first series against India. Bruce Reid averaged 5.00.
Waugh scored 74, his first half century, against New Zealand in his 4th Test match. He shared a partnership of almost 200 with AB. He averaged just 14 with the bat for the series but took 5 wickets at 16.50. Early on, Waugh’s “variety style” medium pace was providing more encouragement than his batting.
In 1987, a career highlight occurred as Waugh was a core member of the 1987 World Cup winning team – a turning point in Australian cricket.
He made 90 & 91 in the first two tests of the 1988-89 series against the West Indies as Australia was smashed. For the series, Waugh made 331 runs at 41.38 and took 10 wickets at 47.20. After a gruelling series against the West Indies, perhaps England would not be so tough!
And so it proved. Steve Waugh made his first Test century, in his 26th Test – 177 not out as Australia started its glorious Ashes campaign of 1989. Not happy with that, he scored 152 not out in the 2nd Test. England finally dismissed Waugh in the 3rd Test but not before he had made 372 runs. He averaged 126.50 for the series.
His form didn’t hold and results tapered away leading up to and during the 1990-91 Ashes series, with one notable exception.
23 December, 1990 saw Mark and Steve Waugh share a world record, unbeaten 464 run partnership for NSW against a full strength Western Australia at the WACA. Mark made 229 and Steve 216. This was scored between the 2nd and 3rd Tests. That performance helped Steve keep his place in the 3rd Test, but only just. He made 48 and 14 and was dropped for the first time. That partnership also added to the weight of the case for Mark Waugh, Test cricketer. After an inordinate wait, Mark Waugh was chosen to play for Australia, ironically, replacing brother Stephen.
Steve was left out until the 1992-1993 home series against the West Indies (except for two Tests in the 1990-91 Caribbean tour). The middle order didn’t settle as players such as Damien Martyn and Justin Langer struggled to hold down their places.
He played all Tests against the Windies in 1992-93, and scored his first ton against them (an even 100) but averaged a modest 25.33 for the series.
Both Mark and Steve had slim pickings in the ensuing three Test series in NZ and Mark was dropped for the final Test.
It was 1993 that saw the dawning of what I call the Steve Waugh glory years. The 1993 Ashes series saw the Waughs reunited, permanently and not coincidently, the end of Dean Jones – someone had to give way.
From and including the 1993 Ashes tour to the 2001 Ashes tour (I draw this line because his well documented and publicised decline in form (albeit somewhat overstated) began in the summer of 2001-02), Steve Waugh scored 6783 runs at an average of 61.66. Of course, that period exactly coincided with the peaks of Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath (as well as some other useful players), and not surprisingly, total domination by the Australian cricket team.
The 1993-94 summer saw the much-awaited return of South Africa to Australian soil. Waugh missed the first two Tests and Australia dramatically lost the 2nd Test at the SCG by 3 runs. Waugh was fit for the 3rd Test and scored 164 in Australia’s first innings and clamed 4-26 in South Africa’s first innings and played a big part in winning the match and squaring the series.
He repeated the double dose two months later in the return bout in South Africa by scoring 86 and taking 5-28 as Australia levelled the series in the 2nd Test.
My opinion is that the South Africans were in awe of Waugh at that time and the “Waugh factor” had a profound affect on meetings between those two teams over the next decade. I think that South Africa didn’t think they could beat a team with Steve Waugh in it. And they were proved to be correct.
Waugh scored 160 as he batted all day with Greg Blewitt in the 1996-97 clash in Johannesburg (and also took 1-4 in the 2nd innings). In the 1999 World Cup, with Australia needing to win a super six match with South Africa to advance to the semi finals, Waugh hit 120 from 110 balls to win the match for Australia. Quite easily his defining ODI innings.
As I return to the time line, 1994-95 saw a fairly lean Ashes series. His average was maintained with two undefeated nineties. Maybe not a defining moment, but noteworthy, Steve was left stranded on 99 at the WACA. The unusual thing was that his last three partners were run out. The really unusual thing was that McDermott was run out, batting at 11, using Mark Waugh as runner!
Waugh enjoyed an exalted tour of the West Indies in March-April 1995 as Australia won the Frank Worrell Trophy for the first time in 19 years and the West Indies suffered a series defeat for the first time in 14 years.
Steve Waugh was the outstanding batsman on either team by a very long way. He scored 429 runs at 107.25 with one (double) century and three half centuries. Next best was Mark Waugh with 240 at 40.00. No other Australian batsman could top an average of 25. Best for the Windies were Lara (308 at 44.00) and Richardson (229 at 32.71).
The highlight of the tour came in the fourth, and final Test, with the series locked at one all. From my position, looking from afar, I would rate this as THE defining moment in Steve Waugh’s long and illustrious career. Australia was chasing a modest 265 and Steve joined Mark with Australia battling at 3-73. They proceeded to build a partnership of 231 with Mark scoring 126 while Steve made his highest Test score of exactly 200. Australia went on to win the match and the series, much to the jubilation of all of Australia.
To add icing to the cake, Steve and Mark Waugh finished the series ranked one and two respectively on the Test batting rankings. Steve also topped the bowling averages, taking five wickets at 12.40.
I should add that it was during this series that a controversial incident involving Steve Waugh occurred. As Waugh’s career was thankfully bereft of controversy and calamity, both on and off the field, this incident is noteworthy. In the very first innings of the series, when on 65 and looking good, Lara smashed a shot into the gully where Steve Waugh dived, clutched at the ball, spilled it and regathered as he tumbled and rolled. Lara was given out but there did seem to be doubt in his mind that it was a clean catch. TV replays seemed to confirm Lara’s suspicions but not conclusively. Australia won the Test and Viv Richards publicly labelled Steve Waugh a cheat. For his part, Waugh seemed untroubled and stuck to his guns – he thought he had caught it.
The hits kept on rolling until another truly defining moment in Manchester, 1997. In the 3rd Test, Waugh scored twin centuries, making 108 in the first innings and 116 in the second. Australia won the match comfortably in the end but Waugh held both innings together, with the first innings total being just 235. The second innings knock was one of bravery as Steve broke his hand in the first innings!
Waugh had been promoted to vice captain over Ian Healy for the 1997 tour of England. As Mark Taylor’s form slump continued, it was clear that he might need to be dropped during that tour. Waugh’s promotion to vice-captain also made it clear that he would be the next captain of Australia.
This proved to be true in 1999 after Mark Taylor’s retirement. Steve Waugh started his stint as the most successful captain in cricket history in the Caribbean in March 1999. Success was instant as Australia won its first Test with Waugh at the helm by a landslide, dismissing the West Indies for a humiliating 51 in the second innings.
Waugh scored 100 and 199 in the 2nd and 3rd Tests. Despite those contributions, Brian Lara famously won both of those encounters, scoring 213 in the 2nd Test and then 153 not out in the final innings of the 3rd Test as the West Indies successfully chased 308 with one wicket to spare. This celebrated series resulted in a two all draw with Australia winning the final match to square the series and retain the Frank Worrell Trophy.
More testing times were to follow in Sri Lanka as Australia lost that three Test series 1-0 in a heavily rain affected series. Steve Waugh collected a broken nose for his troubles, breaking Jason Gillespie’s leg in the process. So after six Tests, and in the red with the win-loss count, Steve Waugh may have been hoping for a change in fortune.
And change it did. Australia’s win in the single Test in Zimbabwe, on the way home from Sri Lanka was the start of an all time, record breaking, 16 match winning streak, easily beating the previous record of 8, set in 1925 by Warwick Armstrong’s wonderful team.
The winning streak ended incredibly in India in 2001, in the 2nd Test in Calcutta, when India won after following on. India won a much celebrated series 2-1 after loosing the first Test. Winning a series in India was the Holy Grail for Steve Waugh – the one he did not achieve.
Waugh had a great tour of England in 2001, scoring two centuries. The second of those centuries was scored in the 5th Test having missed the 4th Test with a torn calf muscle. This provided one of my favourite Steve Waugh moments. Somewhere between 50 and 100, the injury was aggravated. As he went into the match with the injury, and his name is not Arjuna Ranatunga, he did not request a runner. Steve was batting with Mark (who made 120 as they shared a 197 run partnership) and simply couldn’t run. Scoring options were pretty much reduced to boundaries for the brothers and this produced some very entertaining batting. Once he made 90, Steve became more cautious and took an inordinate time to reach 100. He eventually hit the ball to mid-wicket and went for what should have been an easy single. Not so. He hobbled down the track and a few metres out made a desperate lunge for safety, ending in a long belly slide. He made it and I’ll always remember his embarrassed, sheepish grin as he lifted his face from the turf, still lying flat on the ground. He then proceeded to smash his way to 157 not out.
The following summer (2001-2002) saw Steve struggle for form in the nine Tests with New Zealand and South Africa. He scored just 311 runs at 25.91 and it was worrying that even Warne was performing appreciably better with the bat. Mark was struggling, too and both men were dropped from the One Day team (at different times) after the VB one-day series that summer. A hard pill to swallow for Steve Waugh.
Pressure was on both men as the team toured Sri Lanka and Sharjah for three Tests against Pakistan, in late 2002. The series was won 3-0 but the Waughs did not perform well until the third Test. Following consecutive ducks and under immense pressure for his place in the side, Steve hit 103 not out in the third Test. A relieved Glenn McGrath watched from the other end as Waugh went from 83 to 103 (2 x 6, 2 x 4) in a single over.
That innings kept Steve in the side. Mark was dropped and retired from international cricket.
Australia hosted England in the summer of 2002-2003 and the amount of focus on Steve Waugh’s form and each innings beggared belief. He was in reasonable form, without scoring heavily but built momentum as the series progressed. His scores for the first four Tests, as Australia won each Test were: 7 & 12, 34, 53 and 77 & 14. The stage was set for the final Test in Sydney. There was never ending talk about whether Waugh would or should retire, would he be dropped and could he survive? It went on and on. The timing seemed perfect to retire – with a grand finale at the SCG, his home ground. We all know now that Waugh scored a famous century, hitting the final ball of the 2nd day to the fence to reach 102. The fairy tale ending was there for the taking.
Waugh had done enough to maintain his place and to choose his own terms for retirement. Waugh chose to play on and guided the team to victories against the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. All matches were won except for the final Test against the West Indies, denying Australia a rare clean sweep in the Caribbean. During this time he scored 621 runs at 124.20 with three centuries.
Before the home series against India, Steve Waugh announced that he would retire at the end of the series. Fittingly, he would play his first and last Tests against India, a country that he has developed deep affection for over the years and in turn is adored by its people. The team and Waugh struggled to provide a victorious last series, with honors being shared 1-1. India scored 7/705 in the final Test at the SCG.
Steve Waugh scored 80, passing 50 for only the second time in the 4th innings of Test match, and played a big part in saving the match. In fact, he was dismissed with five overs to go, when the match was safe, as the crowd was working up to a frenzy as it appeared that Waugh would go for the hundred and one final defining moment.
Steve Waugh ended his career with 92 Test wickets. It is shame that Waugh’s bowling was very limited after the 1994 tour of Pakistan, due to a back injury. Up until that point in his career (8 years), Waugh had taken 67 wickets. In the final 10 years, he took just 25. Without injury, it is possible that Waugh would have gone down as one of the great all rounders.
Of course, Steve Waugh was a wonderful One Day cricketer, especially when he was a bowling force. Waugh took 195 ODI wickets and is still 20th on the all time wicket takers list. His great variety was difficult to dispatch and his balls of steel saw him often bowling in the final, pressure charged overs of the innings. He was one of the pioneers of the slower delivery. His batting results, on paper, were modest with just 16 fifties and 2 hundreds. However, it must be remembered that he played most innings batting in positions 5, 6 and 7, which meant that opportunities for big scoring were limited.
And he was a fine fieldsman, fielding in close or in the outfield. There was a particular catch one night that is well remembered where Waugh caught a ball that was hit high, straight down the ground. He took the catch looking over his shoulder, running full tilt, almost behind the sightscreen.
Finally, Steve Waugh’s record as captain was:
That represents the best win ratio (by far) and the most wins lead by any Test captain. To put this record into context, here are the records of some illustrious others for comparison:
Statistical Summary, highlights and quirks
46 not outs
10927 runs at 51.06
32 x hundreds
50 x fifties
92 wickets at 37.44
3 x 5wi
57 matches as captain
3714 runs at 44.74 as captain
Steve Waugh made a record ten scores in the nineties, two of them were not out. #@#Check if Slater beat him
Of the 32 centuries, 14 were scores of 150 or better and 15 were not out.
Waugh is the only player to have scored centuries (150 plus scores, at that) against all other Test playing nations.
Waugh was dismissed in single figures 64 times, which is 29.9% of the times he was dismissed.
Steve Waugh made 22 ducks.
Steve Waugh is one of only three players to have been dismissed in Test cricket in seven different ways (bowled, lbw, caught, stumped, run out, handled ball & hit wicket). The other two are Des Haynes (who collected the same set) and Len Hutton who is the only batsman to have been given out, obstructing play (but he never handled the ball).
All stats are courtesy of Cricinfo and Howzstat databases and “200 Seasons of Australian Cricket”.