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MARK BOUCHER was not nicknamed “Guinness” without reason. He collected world records almost like some collect stamps. If it was not through feats behind the stumps, it was with his bat that he routinely etched his name into cricket’s history books.
But Boucher’s 15-year career cannot only be defined by statistics. It was also about his ability to keep calm when everybody around him were falling and being able to conjure up rescue missions when all seemed lost.
His glaring record of 999 international dismissals is well known, likewise his heroic deeds in the “438” game at the Bullring in 2006 and his match-winning partnership with Graeme Smith at Edgbaston in 2008. We dug deeper into the archives and found five other great moments of Boucher’s stellar career.
1 First Test v Pakistan,
February 14-18, 1998
Floppy-haired and barely a few months after his 21st birthday, Boucher introduces himself in dramatic fashion. In just his second Test, the little wicket-keeper-batsman from East London joins up with the old codger Pat Symcox to fashion an extraordinary 195-run partnership for the ninth wicket, which is still a world record. Boucher hit 78, but, more importantly, helped the 38-year-old Symcox to his maiden Test century. Many believe it was during their 50-over stay at the crease that Boucher took every note on how to be courageous and brave from one of the gutsiest of them all to play for South Africa.
2 Fifth Test v West Indies,
January 15-18, 1999
South Africa may have been leading the series 4-0 heading into the final dead rubber, but at 123/6, the Windies finally had the Proteas in a real mess. South Africa needed a man for a crisis – and they had theirs in their young gloveman. With the support of Jacques Kallis, who has become not just a teammate but a bosom buddy, the pair begun the rescue mission. And even after Kallis departed, Boucher continued on his merry way and all the way towards his first Test century. It was the beginning of his most fruitful year with the bat as he proceeded to score two further centuries to average 68.42 in 1999.
3 Second Test v West Indies,
Port of Spain,
March 17-21, 2001
Boucher had established himself as South Africa’s premier wicket-keeper-batsman over the intervening three years and confirmed it when West Indies batsman Wavell Hinds became his 153rd victim in just his 38th Test. It was significant as it took him past Dave Richardson as the Proteas’ most successful wicket-keeper ever. Over the next 12 years, Boucher just stretched that mark further and further, eventually finishing with 523 catches and 22 stumpings for an overall tally of 555 – a world record!
4 First Test v Australia,
February 22-24, 2002
This Test will always have a sweet and sour taste for Boucher. In what was supposed to be a celebration, instead the all-conquering Aussies turned it into a nightmare when they walloped the Proteas by an innings and 360 runs, which remains South Africa’s biggest-ever Test defeat. Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn were centurions for Australia, while Boucher’s big rival, Adam Gilchrist, smashed an unbeaten 204 off just 213 balls. Why was it meant to be a celebration? It was Boucher’s 50th Test for South Africa, and he was installed as captain for the series in the absence of Shaun Pollock.
5 Fourth Test v West Indies,
March 29-April 3, 2005
The Antigua Recreation Ground is the size of a postage stamp. It is the venue where Brian Charles Lara set the Test world record highest score of 400, and was now the ground where a record eight centuries were scored in this Test. Each team registered four, with the Windies amassing a gigantic 747 all out due to Chris Gayle’s 317. South Africa used all 11 players to bowl in the innings, including Boucher. And to the surprise of his teammates, and to the unbridled delight of Boucher himself, he had Dwayne Bravo caught by Ashwell Prince for 107 off his slow-to-medium-pacers. Mark Boucher had a Test wicket to his credit!