SA v India Newlands Tests: Sizzle & snores

2018-01-02 13:01
Jacques Kallis (AP)

Cape Town – Even over the course of a relatively modest four Test matches thus far, the gamut of cricketing moods and tempos has genuinely been experienced in Newlands Test tussles between South Africa and India.

Veteran enthusiasts at the picturesque venue, presumably keenly weighing up Friday’s first clash of the three-Test 2017/18 series, have been put through hugely contrasting levels of entertainment value over the prior quartet of battles.

In short, there’s been some sublime value for money and no small dosage of a put-you-to-sleep factor since the first bilateral encounter in the formidable shadow of Table Mountain in 1992/93.

Here is a summary of the four Tests, featuring two South African victories and two stalemates …

January 1993, fourth and final Test: draw

For the poignant, first ever Test series between the countries, this was a disappointing stinker … more or less from start to finish.

Both tetchy and severely patience-testing through the funereal pace of batting so often by both sides, SA had secured the series’ only (and ultimately decisive) win at Port Elizabeth in game three, and duly did what was needed to be done – not lose – in the Newlands finale.

Yes, it wasn’t pretty in Cape Town either: Kepler Wessels’ troops prodded their way at 2.10 runs per over to 360 for nine declared (Jonty Rhodes 86, Brian McMillan 52) but then the Indians, strangely hardly exuding urgency themselves, countered with 276 in all of 151.4 agonising overs in their own first dig. Sachin Tendulkar made an unusually laboured 73 off 208 balls.

The hosts then went into a stonewall mode of note in their second innings, registering 130 for six declared in 97 overs and setting India a strictly nominal target of 215 late on the last day.

They were 29 for one when the Test – and series - was put out of its weighty misery.  

January 1997, second of three Tests: SA won by 282 runs

South Africa clinched this series early, as they powered their way to an unassailable 2-0 lead at Newlands -- only this time in an altogether more rollicking contest than witnessed four years earlier.

The Hansie Cronje-led hosts took full advantage of winning the toss to amass an “insurance” total of 529 for seven declared, built on centuries from all of Gary Kirsten, McMillan and a cherry-on-top, especially swift unbeaten one from Lance Klusener toward the tail section.

When the Indians nosedived to 58 for five in reply, a rout seemed entirely feasible … but what followed, for those privileged enough to soak it in under the warm sun, was one of the most high-octane passages of Test play imaginable (certainly at the time).

Maestro Tendulkar stuck to his anchoring task, though interspersed with plenty of majestic strokes of his own, while seasoned Mohammad Azharuddin took the fight to the SA attack, lashing 115 at more than a run a ball in a sixth-wicket partnership of 222.

His onslaught included 19 fours and a six, and was only ended by Andrew Hudson’s run-out.

Tendulkar, running out of partners, upped his own aggression levels before falling victim to simply another bit of awe-inspiring cricket: last man out for 169, courtesy of an acrobatic, one-handed boundary catch from Adam Bacher as he unleashed a purposeful pull.

The tourists (359) were still left 170 runs in arrears, and SA then declared six down after going past 250 again, aided by half-tons from McMillan, Daryll Cullinan and Hudson.

At least to Indian onlookers, the Test then lost much of its hitherto considerable allure as they were bombed out for 144 in an unlikely hunt of 427, Allan Donald and Paul “Gogga” Adams bagging three scalps apiece. 

January 2007, third and final Test: SA won by five wickets

This was the pivotal Test in a series where Graeme Smith’s Proteas had been required to claw back from 1-0 down (India’s first ever SA win, at the Wanderers) and they completed the series-sealing task at Newlands.

Still, the game had started most promisingly for India, as they compiled a healthy first innings of 414, opener Wasim Jaffer’s 116 the glue around which it was bound although Shaun Pollock and Paul Harris each managed four-wicket hauls.

SA then fell a little short in reply, their 373 featuring a nerve-settling 94 from skipper Smith, so often a reveller in demanding situations.

But the game turned on its head with India’s fatally short-lived second knock of 169, the fast-emerging young speedster Dale Steyn picking up 4/30.

The Proteas thus needed 211 for the match and series, and duly did the business five down, Smith again leading the assault with 55.

January 2011, third and final Test: draw

India, increasingly determined to confirm improved mettle in the southern hemisphere, arguably ended the happier of the two nations as this series-ending draw ensured their first split series in South Africa – after four earlier reverses on these shores.

It all came down to Newlands, where a monumental batting performance from Jacques Kallis – almost indisputably one of the best in Test history, if weighed over the course of both innings and on debilitating circumstance – went a long way to at least ensuring the Proteas didn’t lose the series.

Kallis damaged a rib and muscles in his side fairly early in his first knock, causing visible, wincing pain for him for the remainder of the Test … but his successive 161 out of 362 and then 109 not out in the SA second innings of 341 were worth pure gold in an otherwise stuttering showing at the crease by the home outfit.

Another established legend of the Test arena, Sachin Tendulkar, had struck a first-dig 146 at a favoured away venue for him.

Thanks strongly to Kallis’s special obduracy (the Proteas were a precarious 98 for five at stage) in their second turn at the crease, India were eventually required to make a demanding 340 for victory on a full day five, and ended up favouring discretion as the better part of valour.

Stumps were drawn with India a tame 166 for three after 82 overs, but nevertheless feeling a certain SA rot had stopped …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  jacques kallis  |  cricket

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