Famous Test Matches – England v South Africa, Old Trafford, 1998

  South Africa had stormed to a 1-0 lead in the series with a ten-wicket win in the second Test at Lord’s, and came into the third, played at Old Trafford from July 2 to July 6, 1998, riding on a wave of confidence. The visitors replaced opener Adam Bacher and pace bowler Shaun Pollock, both of whom were nursing injuries, with Gerhardus Liebenberg and Makhaya Ntini respectively.

  England, on the other hand, made three changes from the drubbing at Lord’s; Dean Headley and Mark Ealham made way for strike bowler Darren Gough, who was fit again, and uncapped Warwickshire left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, while Nick Knight came in for Stephen James to partner Michael Atherton at the top of the order.

  Hansie Cronje won the toss and made the wise decision of batting first on a slow surface which had little for the fast bowlers. Gough provided an early breakthrough by castling Liebenberg, but thereafter, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis combined to grind the English bowling into submission. The duo saw through the rest of the opening day and steered South Africa to 237/1 at close of play.

  While the 22-year-old Kallis reached his second Test century on the first day, Kirsten completed the milestone early on day two. Together they stayed put for more than 96 overs, adding 238 for the second wicket, which was a new record for South Africa’s highest partnership for any wicket since their return from isolation. Kallis batted for nearly six hours before being bowled by Gough.

  Kallis’ 132 came from 266 balls and featured 16 fours, but his wicket was but a speck of consolation for the toiling bowlers. Daryll Cullinan came in at number four, and along with Kirsten, further frustrated the hosts by batting dourly and resolutely, effectively snuffing out any hopes that England might have had of gaining the upper hand.

   South African opener Gary Kirsten batted for nearly eleven hours to compile 210 at Old Trafford in 1998 (source – cricket.com.au)

  Kirsten went on to a maiden Test double hundred and was eventually out in the final session, caught behind by captain Alec Stewart off Angus Fraser, for a marathon knock of 210. He occupied the crease for ten hours and 50 minutes, then the longest Test innings by a South African batsman, faced 525 balls and hit 24 fours and a six. His third-wicket alliance with Cullinan fetched 176 runs.

  Nine overs later, Cullinan perished after a defiant effort of his own, 75 in nearly five hours, thus giving 25-year-old Giles his first Test wicket. South Africa finished the day at 487/4 and seemingly on course to bat England out of the match. Cronje collected an unbeaten 69 in the first session of the third day, before declaring his team’s innings one ball short of 200 overs, the total reading 552/5.

  With a considerable challenge staring them in the face, England’s batsmen let their supporters down, succumbing to pace and spin alike. The tearaway Allan Donald applied the pressure first up, snaring Nick Knight and Nasser Hussain to leave England at 34/2. The seasoned pair of Atherton and Stewart dug in to add 60 for the third wicket, before the former was dismissed.

  Atherton was caught behind by Mark Boucher, who pouched his third catch, off Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa. His 41 would remain the highest score of the innings. Stewart was soon bowled by Kallis, and the score was now 108/4. To worsen matters for England, Graham Thorpe was fighting a back injury and had to be shifted down the order.

  Left-arm chinaman bowler Paul Adams, known for his ‘frog in a blender’ action, took care of the middle order, scalping three wickets, including that of Thorpe for a duck, to tighten the noose around England. The hosts endured another torrid day, ending at 162/8 and were presumably down for the count. They were duly bundled out for 183 the next morning, with Adams returning 4/63.

  With England 369 runs behind and close to five sessions left in the game, Cronje had no hesitation in imposing the follow-on. The start to the second innings was woeful – Knight, caught behind off Donald, and Hussain, cleaned up by Kallis, were again back in the hut cheaply. For the second time in as many days, Atherton and Stewart were under the pump to salvage a fast-sinking ship.

     England’s captain Alec Stewart scored 164 in the second innings to engineer his team’s fightback against South Africa (source – gettyimages)

  England’s aggregate in their last three Test innings was fifteen runs less than South Africa’s first innings total here, and they now found themselves 11/2 against a charged-up bowling attack. To say they were in dire straits would be an understatement. The pair in the middle was utterly crucial for England in the context of the game, what with Thorpe’s lack of fitness.

  Atherton and Stewart delivered when it mattered the most, ensuring that the South Africans would not find any further success on the fourth day. Stewart was relatively brisker, and reached his century in the final session, remaining unbeaten on 115 at stumps. England began the final day in a much safer position, at 211/2, but by no means they were out of the woods yet.

  England were now trailing by 158, and with eight wickets still in the bank, they had reason to be optimistic of saving the Test as the fifth day commenced. Atherton, eyeing a hundred of his own, and Stewart prodded along with prudence, before the former was taken out halfway through the first session, caught by Ntini off Kallis for a valuable 89, which ate up over six hours and 280 balls.

  The third-wicket stand between Atherton and Stewart realised 226 runs, and more importantly, saw off 83 overs. Mark Ramprakash joined his captain at the fall of the third wicket, and as was expected, went into an uber-defensive mode right away. The total had inched to 293/3 an hour after lunch, with England still 76 short of making South Africa bat again, when Stewart finally buckled.

  England’s unflinching wicketkeeper-captain had done his bit for the team, batting out close to seven hours for a valiant 164 from 317 balls, with 24 fours. Like Atherton, he fell playing the hook shot, caught by Klusener off the indefatigable Donald. This key wicket doubtlessly reignited the ‘White Lightning’, as Donald was known, and he proceeded to give England a rude jolt.

  Thorpe capped a sorry Test with his second duck, bowled by Donald in his next over. To add to England’s distress, Adams ejected Dominic Cork soon after, and the score was now 296/6 – three wickets had fallen for as many runs in as many overs. Glamorgan’s Robert Croft joined Ramprakash, and another 20 overs were cleared before Donald had the latter leg before wicket.

     Speedster Allan Donald bowled his heart out for South Africa in the second innings, taking 6/88 from 40 overs (source – gettyimages)

  ‘Ramps’ held fort for over three hours, scoring 34. Fours over later, Donald collected his fifth victim in the form of Giles. England were now 329/8, with more than 25 overs left to be negotiated. Croft began to show that he was no pushover, stodgily defying whatever the South Africans threw at him. He found support in an equally obstinate Gough, and they set about to thwart the tiring visitors.

  Croft and Gough battled for more than 20 overs and 75 minutes, but when Gough was out, caught by Kirsten off Donald, there yet remained 7.1 overs and England were still two runs away from forcing the fourth innings. However, Croft was unmoved; he levelled the scores amid rising tension, thus covering two more overs, for the change of innings.

  Fraser, the number eleven, played out 13 deliveries at the other end without opening his account, and this last pair had somehow survived for 31 balls to deny South Africa. The draw was ensured in the penultimate over, as even if a wicket had fallen in the last over, South Africa would not have had sufficient time to bat. The Test finished with scores level as England dragged to 369/9 in 171 overs.

  Croft remained unbeaten on a heroic 37 from 125 balls, absorbing the pressure for three hours and ten minutes. Donald led the way for the South Africans, who were on the field for 253.1 overs, with figures of 6/88 in 40 overs. The choice of Kallis as man of the match was perhaps a wee bit surprising, though there is no denying the vital all-round role he played.

  Inspired by this epic escape, England produced a high-impact performance in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, winning by eight wickets. It all boiled down to the decider at Headingley, which turned to be a gripping low-scorer that the hosts pinched by 23 runs, culminating in a special, come-from-behind series victory.

Match Scorecard

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Famous Test Matches – West Indies v Pakistan, Bridgetown, 1976-77

  Pakistan’s 1976-77 tour of the Caribbean was only their second to the region, following their maiden sojourn back in 1957-58, which remains the only Test series to have featured two triple hundreds. As was the case 19 years earlier, the opening Test of the 1976-77 series was also played at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, from February 18-23, 1977.

  Going into this series, the West Indies had not played Test cricket for six months, with their last assignment being a significant 3-0 win in the five-Test series in England. Pakistan, on the other hand, had notched a comprehensive home win against New Zealand, followed by a commendable draw in Australia, in the preceding four months.

  Pakistan were led by Mushtaq Mohammad, younger brother of Hanif, who had scored an epic 337 the last time the two teams met at Bridgetown. He elected to bat after calling correctly, and his decision seemed vindicated as openers Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad – yet another of the Mohammad brothers – sedately put on 72.

  The West Indies had in their ranks two young fast bowlers on Test debut who would go on to have successful careers – Guyanese Colin Croft and Barbadian Joel Garner. The two were involved in the first wicket of the day, when Garner had Sadiq caught by Croft. Majid and Haroon Rasheed further added 76 for the second wicket, and at 148/1, Pakistan looked primed for a big total.

  However, Rasheed’s dismissal to off-spinner Maurice Foster led to a collapse engineered by the two debutants. Croft had Mushtaq caught behind by Deryck Murray for a duck, while Garner dealt a double blow, castling Majid for 88 and sending back Javed Miandad cheaply, out leg-before. Asif Iqbal’s wicket to Croft added to the visitors’ frustration, and they had now lost five for 85.

      Wasim Raja twice led Pakistan’s recovery, scoring 117* and 71 in the first and second innings respectively (source – brandsynario.com)

  Resuming at 269/6 on the second day, Pakistan had an undesired start, losing Imran Khan to Andy Roberts. Their hopes of bolstering the total now pinned on the left-handed Wasim Raja, who delivered with a fine century from number seven. He marshalled the tail expertly, sharing in stands of 64 with Saleem Altaf and 73 with Sarfraz Nawaz for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively.

  Raja’s unbeaten 117, including 12 fours and a six, powered Pakistan to a formidable 435. Garner bowled with purpose to collect 4/130, with Croft not too far behind with 3/85. In reply, the West Indian openers Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge added 59, but both were back in the hut before stumps on the second day, the score reading 109/2.

  The pace duo of Imran and Sarfraz continued to trouble the hosts early on the third day, and at 183/5, with the key wickets of Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharan also taken, Pakistan clearly had the upper hand. One big hurdle however remained to be crossed – the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, who came in at the fall of the third wicket.

  Lloyd found a willing ally in Murray, and the duo put the Pakistani attack to the sword with a much-needed restabilization job. Lloyd dominated the sixth-wicket stand of 151, unleashing his full range of strokes to lead his team’s fightback. Murray fell to Imran for a composed 52, but Lloyd was not done yet, and added another 70 for the seventh wicket with Garner, who cracked a breezy 43.

  The West Indian innings terminated at 421 with nine men out, as Vanburn Holder was absent hurt. Lloyd finished with a captain’s knock of 157, bedecked with 22 fours and three sixes. With only 14 runs separating the teams, the proceedings of the second innings would be critical to the outcome of the match. Stumps were taken on the third day with Pakistan at 18/0, leading by 32.

       West Indian captain Clive Lloyd rescued his team in the first innings with a commanding knock of 157 (source – gettyimages)

  The fourth day featured plenty of ebbs and flows that promised to set up an exciting fight to the finish. Croft (4/47) removed the Pakistani openers before they caused much damage, but at 102/2, the visitors could scarcely have imagined the mayhem to follow. Roberts (3/66) opened the floodgates by bowling Rasheed, and later added Mushtaq’s scalp to his tally.

  At the other end, Croft’s sustained pace got the better of Iqbal and Miandad, and the Pakistani innings was now in tatters at 113/6, the last four wickets having fallen for just 11 runs. Garner joined the party with two wickets of his own, and the match seemed West Indies’ to lose as Pakistan crashed to 158/9 in the second session, ahead by no more than 172.

  As it happened, Raja proved to be the home team’s bane again. The West Indian fielders, especially the wicketkeeper Murray, did not help themselves with a shoddy display. Raja was dropped four times, and he went on to score 71, the majority of those runs coming in a sensational tenth-wicket stand worth 133 with wicketkeeper Wasim Bari (68).

  This partnership was then the second-highest for the last wicket, and it changed the complexion of this already riveting Test. Murray was guilty of conceding 29 byes, largely contributing to the total of 68 extras, which created a new Test record at that time. The entire match would feature as many as 173 extras, which still stands as the Test record.

  The eventual target for the West Indies was a stiff 306, and matters were further complicated when Greenidge was out to Sarfraz with the score at 12. The hosts began the final day at 41/1, with all four results possible. Fredericks and Richards turned the tide towards their side, as their partnership blossomed to 130 in the opening session, making Pakistan uneasy.

      Colin Croft returned match figures of 7/132 on Test debut. He would go on to take 8/29 in the first innings of the next Test (source – gettyimages)

  Sarfraz did the star turn for the visitors, accounting for both, Fredericks (52) and Richards (92), who were trying to go on the offensive in their quest to make a victory bid. The middle order was severely dented by the pace trio of Sarfraz and Imran, as the West Indian score slipped from 142/1 to 185/5. It was soon becoming an increasingly tough battle of survival for the hosts.

  As if this was not enough, Altaf, the third frontline paceman, brought Pakistan closer to victory by grabbing the wickets of Kallicharan, Garner and Murray within the space of 11 runs. When the eighth wicket fell at 217, the mandatory 20 overs were yet to begin. Roberts and Holder, who was fit to bat now, defied by adding 20 runs in 45 minutes before the latter was cleaned up by Imran.

  Croft came out to join Roberts, with Pakistan one strike away from a crucial lead in the five-Test series. However, the two fast bowlers hung in as the overs went by, ensuring that the final nail in the coffin was not hammered. The West Indies had a narrow escape, ending at 251/9 amid great tension. Roberts consumed 95 minutes for his nine, returning to the pavillion as a saviour.

  Croft (7/132) and Sarfraz (7/204) both finished with seven wickets apiece in the match. This last-gasp draw was perhaps a fitting finish to what had been an absorbing Test match, filled with many a twist in the plot due to noteworthy rescue acts in all four innings. The West Indies took the series 2-1, after winning the deciding final Test at Kingston by 140 runs.

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – India v Australia, Bombay, 1964-65

  India’s first two home series against Australia, in 1956-57 and 1959-60 respectively, had ended in disappointment as they managed to win just once in eight Tests. Their tormentor-in-chief was the legendary leg-spinner Richie Benaud, who snapped up a total of 52 wickets at 18.38 across both the rubbers.

  Thus, Bob Simpson’s Australians embarked on the 1964-65 tour with a view to achieve a hat-trick of series wins in India. Benaud, who had retired after the South African tour in the previous season, was no longer part of the team, but the visitors were fresh from their Ashes-retaining triumph in England. Moreover, Australia had not lost a Test series in the last eight years.

  India were led by the stylish Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who at the age of 21 years and 77 days had become the youngest ever Test captain during the West Indian tour in 1961-62. The first Test at the Corporation Stadium in Madras saw him score a fine captain’s innings of 128*, but India went down by 139 runs despite holding a first-innings lead of 65.

  There was only a two-day gap for the hosts to formulate their bid to level the series. The second Test began on October 10, 1964 at the iconic Brabourne Stadium in Bombay, a venue where India were yet to lose in 11 Tests. While Australia had form on their side, history favoured India. The stage seemed set for an enthralling contest, and so it proved over the next five days.

  Just after Simpson elected to bat first, India got a slice of fortune as Australia’s assigned number three Norman O’Neill was ruled out of the match due to an upset stomach. The bowlers built on the good news by reducing Australia to 53/3; Salim Durani – the only Test player born in Afghanistan – removed Bill Lawry while Bhagwath Chandrasekhar castled Brian Booth and Simpson.

  Bob Cowper joined Peter Burge in the middle and the two resurrected the innings with a fourth-wicket stand worth 89, before the former was out LBW to the stingy left-arm spinner Rameshchandra ‘Bapu’ Nadkarni, who had taken 11/122 at Madras. Burge, one of Australia’s Ashes heroes, went on to make a boundary-filled 80, an innings that was cut short by Chandu Borde’s leg-spin.

  The loss of the two set batsmen for just four runs meant that Australia were 146/5 at this point and in need of another substantial partnership. Tom Veivers and wicketkeeper Barry Jarman provided just that. It was not until the fag end of the first day that they were separated, when Rusi Surti dismissed Jarman for a spunky, career-best 78, ending a sixth-wicket alliance of 151.

  Having ended the opening day at 301/6, ten-man Australia lost the last three wickets quickly to finish with a total of 320. Veivers became the fourth batsman to fall to Chandrasekhar’s legbreaks and was eighth out for a patient 67. ‘Chandra’ returned neat figures of 4/50. In reply, Alan Connolly gave Australia a perfect start by seeing the back of Dilip Sardesai with the score at seven.

mak-pataudi

       Indian captain Mansoor Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi scored twin fifties in the thrilling Bombay Test of 1964-65 (source – sportskeeda.com)

  Simpson put his leg-spin to good use as he had Durani caught behind to make it 30/2. Local lad Vijay Manjrekar, who was born in Bombay but was now playing for Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, then gave able support to opener Motganhalli Jaisimha as the duo stitched together a stand of 112 for the third wicket. It was Veivers who produced the breakthrough, bowling Jaisimha for 66.

  Manjrekar followed soon after for 59, also to Veivers. The persistent off-spinning all-rounder was rewarded with two important wickets at a crucial juncture in the match, and India were now 149/4. Pataudi strode out at number six and managed to see off the rest of the day along with Hanumant Singh as India reached 178/4 at stumps.

  Veivers continued from where he left as he got rid of Hanumant early on day three. At the other end, Johnny Martin, a rare chinaman bowler, kept things boiling by accounting for Borde’s wicket. India had stuttered to 188/6 and it was up to Pataudi to take charge from hereon. He responded to the challenge by  dominating a seventh-wicket partnership of 67 with Surti.

  Surti’s loss did not deter the skipper, who looked good for another century when he was caught by Graham McKenzie off Veivers for 86, eighth out with the score at 293. Nadkarni and wicketkeeper Kumar Indrajitsinhji – grand-nephew of the great Ranji – hung around to score valuable runs and stretched India’s total to 341. Veivers collected a career-best 4/68 and bowled as many as 20 maidens.

  India had eked out a lead of 21, narrow but valuable nonetheless, given that they would bat last on a surface conducive to spin. Lawry and Simpson soon wiped off the deficit with an opening stand of 59. Lawry was in good nick and steered Australia to a secure position of 112/1 by the close, with Cowper giving him company. The visitors’ lead was 91 and they had eight wickets in the bank.

  A key moment came on the fourth morning when Chandra took two wickets in successive balls. The talented 19-year-old first had Lawry trapped in front for 68 and then hit the top of off stump with a peach of a delivery to snare the in-form Burge for a duck. However, this double strike at 121 did not hamper Cowper’s focus. He joined forces with Booth to put Australia in the driver’s seat.

  The left-right handed batting pair began to take the game away from the Indians with an ominous partnership of 125 for the fourth-wicket. At 246/3 during the second session, Australia were holding the aces with a lead of 225 and six wickets still in hand. The Test took another turn when Cowper was caught behind off Nadkarni for 81, the top score of the innings.

  Cowper’s wicket opened the floodgates for India as Nadkarni and Chandra tore through the rest of the batting line-up. First-innings saviours Veivers and Jarman were both out without scoring to Chandra. Nadkarni (4/33) grabbed the last three wickets, including that of Booth, who was seventh out, stumped for 74. Chandra (4/73) ended with impressive match figures of 8/123.

  Australia were all out for 274 and their collapse of six for 28 ensured that India’s target was limited to 254. The innings started poorly again, this time thanks to Connolly, who had Jaisimha caught behind for a duck with the score at four. Late in the day, Durani and nightwatchman Nadkarni fell in quick succession, neutralising the second-wicket stand of 66 between Sardesai and Durani.

chandra

       19-year-old leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar returned match figures of 8/123 against Australia at the Brabourne Stadium (source – gettyimages)

  The eventful fourth day concluded with India’s score at a wobbly 74/3. The batting order was rejigged with Surti ostensibly sent as another nightwatchman, ahead of the more accomplished batsmen. The final day coincided with the festival of Dussehra, a public holiday, which meant that an estimated crowd of 42,000 thronged to witness the proceedings, hopeful of a famous Indian victory.

  Surti did not last long and perished to Veivers, making the score 99/4. Australian pace spearhead McKenzie, who was the star performer at Madras with a match haul of 10/91, had gone wicketless in the first dig. To India’s worry, he sprung into action at the right time for the visitors. Sardesai, who was looking solid at 56, was struck on the pads by McKenzie; India were now 113/5.

  The spectators were further filled with dismay nine runs later, when Hanumant was bowled by McKenzie. The Test was Australia’s to lose as India limped to 122/6. The hosts were battling against the odds as well – no team had successfully chased down a target of more than 76 in a Test on Indian soil. India’s last four wickets had added 153 in the first innings. Was an encore possible?

  The assured presence of Pataudi and Manjrekar slowly revived Indian hopes, and lunch was taken with the scoreboard reading 146/6. The resilient pair dug deep in the second session, knowing that time was not an issue. Runs were reduced to a trickle. The Australians were not offering any freebies; Veivers in particular kept bowling tirelessly, but a third wicket in the innings eluded him.

  Pataudi and Manjrekar emerged from the post-lunch session unscathed, and managed to guide India to 215/6 at tea. They were now only 39 away from victory, whereas Australia still needed four wickets. As the final act commenced, Simpson’s decision to take the new ball paid off immediately as Connolly had Manjrekar caught at slip by the captain himself.

  At the other end, Pataudi reached his second fifty of the match, but soon after, much to the shock of the crowd, he too fell victim to Connolly, caught at backward point by Burge for 53. India were 224/8, and 30 runs still separated them from victory. Indrajitsinhji came out to join Borde at this stage, with only the teenaged Chandra – a quintessential number eleven – to follow.

  India were privileged to have the experienced Borde – scorer of two Test hundreds – batting for them at number nine. He determinedly set about achieving the target, and the best efforts of McKenzie, Connolly, Veivers and Simpson were not enough to dislodge him. The remaining runs were unwaveringly churned out amid great tension and rising excitement.

  The winning moment arrived when Borde hit a straight drive to the boundary off a full toss from Veivers, sending the packed house into delirium. India reached 256/8 with half an hour left in the game and Borde, unbeaten on 30, returned to the pavillion as a hero. The series was eventually drawn after a stalemate in the deciding third Test at Calcutta.

  This two-wicket win was indeed special for Indian cricket, especially considering that Pataudi’s men had to fight back twice from perilous situations in the second innings. The Indian captain himself played a major role in the stirring victory, and unsurprisingly, mentioned it as ‘the most satisfying I have known as captain’ in his 1969 autobiography Tiger’s Tale.

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – India v Australia, Kanpur, 1959-60

  With India’s 500th Test match underway at Green Park in Kanpur, the time is apt to relive a significant result achieved by them at this venue, more than half a century ago. This was the second Test of Australia’s second visit to India; the visitors having won the first Test at Delhi by a massive innings and 127 runs.

  India had never got the better of Australia in nine attempts since 1947-48, and following the humbling at Delhi, the odds were clearly stacked against them coming into this Test, which was played from December 19-24, 1959. Gulabrai Ramchand had taken over the reins of the Indian captaincy for this series.

  Ramchand’s opposite number was Richie Benaud, who had starred at Delhi with a match haul of 8/76 and remained the biggest threat to the Indian camp. India had not won a Test in four years – their latest assignment being a catastrophic 5-0 whitewash in England. A new hero was needed, who eventually turned up in the form of a little-known off-spinner from Ahmedabad.

  Jasubhai Patel had a passable record of ten wickets in four Tests, at an average of 31, and had last played for India more than three years ago. The 35-year-old received a surprise call-up for the Kanpur Test from chairman of selectors Lala Amarnath, who believed that he could pose a considerable threat to the Australians on a newly-laid, spin-friendly surface.

  Openers Pankaj Roy and Nariman ‘Nari’ Contractor sedately added 38 runs after India won a crucial toss. It was not long before Benaud got into the act, however. The leg-spinner dismissed both the opening batsmen, thus initiating a wobble in the Indian batting. India slipped to 77/4 and never recovered from these early setbacks.

  Alan Davidson, the impactful left-arm paceman, dealt vital blows to the middle and lower order, finishing with a neat return of 5/31. Benaud continued his good tour by taking 4/63. India could muster only 152 on the board, and the fact that no batsman crossed 25 underlined the control that Australia’s bowlers maintained throughout the innings.

  Australia, resuming from 23/0, seemed to be moving ahead fast in the game on the second day as their openers Colin McDonald and Gavin Stevens produced a stand of 71. Though Patel removed the latter, the dependable Neil Harvey joined McDonald in the middle and the duo steered their team to a strong position of 128/1 at lunch.

zzzjasu

       Indian off-spinner Jasubhai Patel produced a stunning performance and created new bowling records in the Kanpur Test against Australia in 1959-60 (source – wikipedia.org)

  Patel was made to change ends after lunch, and this had a remarkable effect on his bowling and as a result, on the Australian batting. Exploiting the slow track and the footmarks on it to the fullest, he bamboozled the visitors with generous turn and drift. McDonald (53) and Harvey (51) were both clean bowled, and this was just the beginning.

  At the other end, Chandu Borde sent back Norman O’Neill – the only wicket in the innings that did not fall to Patel. Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay was struck on the pads for a duck and Australia had now lost 4 for 31 to be 159/5.  Davidson bravely attempted to grind at one end, even as Patel, who had brought India right back in the contest, was running amok at the other.

  Such was Patel’s accuracy that none of the batsmen to ensue were allowed to settle in, and they sooner or later succumbed to his guile. Davidson’s resistance ended when he was the ninth man out, bowled for 41 with the score reading 219. Last man Gordon Rorke was caught by Abbas Ali Baig, restricting Australia to a lead of 67 and giving Patel a nine-wicket haul.

  Patel’s analysis read an astonishing 35.5-16-69-9. He single-handedly destroyed the Australian line-up – only one of his nine wickets was assisted by a fielder’s catch. These were the new best innings figures by an Indian, bettering Subash Gupte’s 9/102 against the West Indies at the same ground a year ago. The record stood until 1998-99, when Anil Kumble collected his famous 10/74.

  The onus to perform now lay on the batsmen if India hoped to nudge ahead in the Test. It was Contractor who rose to the challenge, compiling a fine 74 – his best Test innings according to him – to give India a positive start. With Davidson at his best, this knock provided belief to the rest of the batsmen to tackle his pace and swing.

  When Contractor was caught by Harvey off Davidson, India were 121/3; the lead being 54 and the match tantalisingly poised. Australia appeared to have the upper hand at 153/5, before the Mumbai pair of Borde (44) and Ramnath Kenny (51) put on 61 for the sixth wicket. The tide was slowly shifting towards the hosts.

  An even more crucial partnership followed for the seventh wicket, for which Kenny and Bapu Nadkarni (46) shared 72 runs. The displays of Patel and Contractor had undoubtedly rubbed on to the middle and lower order, leaving Benaud increasingly worried with every passing over.

  The last four wickets however fell for just five runs, as India were bowled out for 291, which was a great improvement from their first innings. Davidson bowled his heart out to return 7/93, giving himself 12/124 for the match – both career-best figures. This match haul is still the best by an Australian bowler against India.

zzznari

       Nari Contractor scored 74 in the second innings, a knock that enabled India to bounce back after conceding a 67-run lead (source – thehindu.com)

  Australia’s target of 225 was always going to be a difficult proposition on the wearing, final-day pitch. Patel expectedly struck early, dismissing Stevens with only 12 on the board. Late in the day, Polly Umrigar’s off-spin delivered the important wicket of Harvey, caught by Nadkarni in the slips. Australia ended the fourth day at 59/2.

  Umrigar (4/27) also accounted for O’Neill early on the fifth day, without any addition to the score, before consigning Mackay for his second duck in the match. Australia were now 61/4 and staring at a quick submission to spin. A double disaster occurred with the score at 78, as Patel added the scalps of Davidson and Benaud. This effectively sealed the game.

  McDonald top-scored for his team again, churning out a patient 34 before being the ninth man out at 105, stumped by Naren Tamhane off Patel. This was the final wicket, as Rorke was absent hurt. Patel fittingly had the last say as he finished with 5/55 in the second innings, his match figures being an outstanding 14/124.

  India had astoundingly turned the tables to record a historic win by 119 runs – their first ever against Australia. Patel’s startling recall from the wilderness proved to be a coup de maître. Though this match will always be remembered as ‘Patel’s Test’, one must not forget the invaluable contributions of Contractor, Kenny and Umrigar.

  Patel’s match return was a new Indian record as well, surpassing Vinoo Mankad’s 13/131 against Pakistan at Delhi in 1952-53. It was in turn improved by Narendra Hirwani, who took 16/136 on debut against the West Indies at Chennai in 1987-88. India’s best return against Australia currently is Harbhajan Singh’s 15/217, at Chennai in 2000-01.

  Australia bounced back to win the five-Test series 2-1, thanks to another big win – by an innings and 55 runs – in the fourth Test at Chennai. Benaud led from the front, taking 29 wickets at 19.58. Davidson performed even better, with 29 wickets at 14.86. As for Patel, Kanpur was his only moment in the sun as he never played for India again after this series. 

  Given India’s position in world cricket at that time, the ‘miracle at Kanpur’, as it was christened by the media back then, was a pivotal moment in their cricketing history. Two years later, India won their first series against England under the leadership of Contractor, while a maiden overseas series victory followed in New Zealand in 1967-68.

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – South Africa v New Zealand, Cape Town, 1961-62

  Coming into this five-match series, New Zealand had not played Test cricket for nearly three years. They had lost ten consecutive series dating back to 1950-51 and had won just one Test in 32 years and 52 attempts – against the West Indies at Auckland in 1955-56.

  New Zealand’s first tour of South Africa in 1953-54 was a hard lesson learnt as they went down 4-0, salvaging only a draw to avoid being whitewashed. That tour is best remembered for New Zealand’s valiance, spurred by a determined Bert Sutcliffe, in the emotionally-charged Johannesburg Test.

  The first Test of the 1961-62 series at Durban was a close affair, with the hosts prevailing by 30 runs. South African captain Jackie McGlew carried his bat for 127* to guide his side to a first-innings lead of 47. New Zealand were eventually set 197 to win, but they succumbed to Peter Pollock, who took 6/38.

  New Zealand’s performance in the Durban Test underlined that they were not going to go down without a fight, and so it proved as the series wore on. The second Test at Johannesburg was drawn, which meant that South Africa held a 1-0 lead when the teams arrived at Newlands for the crucial New Year’s Test on the first day of 1962.

  Graham Dowling, who had debuted at Johannesburg, fell without scoring to the tall paceman Godfrey ‘Goofy’ Lawrence soon after John Reid had elected to bat. However, his fellow opener Noel McGregor (68) laid a solid platform for the middle order to capitalise on. When he was bowled for 68 by debutant Sydney Burke, the score read 116/3.

  Reid was joined by Zin Harris and the two turned the tide towards New Zealand with a fourth-wicket partnership of 93. Reid scored an attacking 92 before slow left-armer Atholl McKinnon scalped him short of a well-deserved century. Harris was unperturbed by his captain’s loss and found an equally ambitious partner in Murray Chapple.

  Harris and Murray calmly went about their task on a harmless pitch as the South Africans failed to find a way through their alliance. Harris was unbeaten on 91 when stumps were drawn with New Zealand in the ascendancy at 337/4. He circumspectly inched to his first and only Test hundred the following day.

  Burke used his medium pace to great effect on the second morning and was instrumental in sparking a New Zealand collapse. He had Chapple caught behind by John Waite for 69, which ended the fifth-wicket stand of 148. Waite had a good time behind the wicket as he also stumped Harris for 101 (ten fours and two sixes) off Harry Bromfield soon after.

zzalab

         New Zealand’s leg-spinner Jack Alabaster starred in Cape Town with a match return of 8/180 (source – stuff.co.nz/fairfaxnz)

  The lower order and tail were quickly dismantled thanks to Burke, who bowled his heart out to finish with 6/128 in 53.5 overs. New Zealand’s innings terminated at 385, a total they would have taken at the start, even though they lost their last six wickets for 28. This being a four-day Test, the follow-on mark for the hosts was 236.

  Openers McGlew and Eddie Barlow began soundly before Dick Motz took the important wicket of the home captain. Barlow seemed to be in his element, but leg-spinner Jack Alabaster had him caught by Harris for 51, the South African score now a potentially thorny 85/3.

  Clever bowling supported by quality fielding ensured that South Africa kept losing wickets before any substantial partnership could find its feet. Waite attempted to solidify the innings, but his dismissal at 157/4 triggered a slide of 6 for 33. The wreckers-in-chief were medium pacer Francis Cameron and Alabaster.

  Cameron delivered a fine performance as he returned a haul of 5/48. Alabaster, who has to be credited with denting the top order early, was equally effective with figures of 4/61. South Africa could muster only 190 in the face of their combination, and Reid had to decide whether to enforce the follow-on – then a rarity for a New Zealand captain.

  The New Zealand think-tank eventually opted to bat again, ostensibly because it would have been a risk batting last on a wicket expected to turn on the final day. The visitors ended the second day at 8/0 in their second innings and with a lead of 193 – by all means a highly secure position.

  Burke was at it again in the second innings, this time rattling the top order to renew South African hopes. His in-swinger was particularly fruitful as New Zealand wobbled to 44/3 and later to 127/6. Four batsmen from the top seven crossed 20, but none went further than 33. Burke had by now collected his second five-wicket haul.

  Wicketkeeper Artie Dick, who came in at number eight, ended up as the top scorer of the innings with an unbeaten 50 – his only Test fifty – that enabled his team to swell the lead. He dominated in an unbroken tenth-wicket stand of 49 with Cameron, much to the frustration of the hosts, before Reid declared at 212/9.

  South Africa were hampered by an injury to Lawrence, which meant that Burke had to bowl more than he would have expected. Yet, he recorded figures of 5/68, giving him a remarkable 11/196 from 81 overs in the match. This is the second-best return by a South African on Test debut, after Alf Hall’s 11/112 against England at the same venue in 1922-23.

  South Africa’s target was a daunting 407 with about eight hours of play left in the Test. There was more bad news in store for the hosts as McGlew was admitted to hospital after sustaining a finger injury, the score being 11/0 at this stage. Alabaster soon took the wickets of Barlow and Buster Farrer to reduce the score to 54/2 at stumps.

zzzreid

         Captain John Reid contributed to New Zealand’s first away win with 92 runs in the first innings and two vital wickets in the second (source – wikia.com)

  Roy McLean, batting at number four, began signalling his intent to keep sniffing at the target early on the final day. Alabaster added a third wicket to his tally when he removed Waite to make the score 100/3, but McLean mixed caution with aggression and gave Reid plenty to ponder about.

  McGlew returned at the fall of the third wicket to fight for his team, and a partnership worth 101 ensued between him and McLean. The duo steadily progressed in the middle, and at 201/3, the match was heading towards a climax. It was fast bowler Gary Bartlett who broke through, having McGlew caught behind for a gritty 63.

  The pitch was still easy to bat on and until New Zealand saw the back of McLean, they could not have afforded to rest. McLean kept the chase alive in the company of Colin Bland; their partnership realised a further 72 runs for the fifth wicket. 134 runs to win, six wickets in hand was the delicate equation at this stage.

  Bartlett did the star turn again, inducing McLean – who hit his fifth Test ton – into a hook that landed into the hands of Harris. In less than three hours, McLean produced a knock of 113 (18 fours and a six) that had given South Africa a real chance of a historic win – no team had chased down these many runs to win a Test.

  However, McLean’s dismissal signified another momentum shift. Bland battled on, his partnership with Kim Elgie mopping another 42 runs off target, before Cameron dismissed Elgie, and just two runs later, Reid had Bland LBW for 42. South Africa’s batting ammunition had been extinguished, the score now 317/7.

  The end was quick, with the last three wickets falling for only four runs. Though Alabaster was the pick of the bowlers with 4/119 (8/180 in the match), Bartlett and Reid, with two wickets apiece, had provided the vital scalps. Reid fittingly took the final wicket, that of Lawrence, as South Africa were bowled out for 335 to give New Zealand a 72-run win.

  New Zealand thus recorded their first ever overseas Test match triumph. It had taken a long time coming – a run of 30 winless overseas Tests in as many years was finally broken with a convincing all-round display. South Africa’s brave final-day attempt was not enough as the target proved to be a bit too much for their liking.

  South Africa bounced back in the fourth Test at Johannesburg, winning by an innings and 51 runs, before New Zealand levelled for the second time in the series with a 40-run win in the fifth Test at Port Elizabeth. The final result of 2-2 was a fair reflection of a well-fought Test series. 

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – England v Sri Lanka, Lord’s, 2006

  England embarked upon the 2006 summer following a roller-coaster season during which they memorably regained the Ashes after 18 years, but then fell meekly in Pakistan before securing a drawn result in India. Their early season opponents were Sri Lanka, whose batsmen faced the arduous task of having to negotiate the damp May conditions.

  Captain Michael Vaughan was still out with injury, which meant that the talismanic Andrew Flintoff – who had overseen the creditable draw in India – continued to lead England. Sri Lanka were lead by Mahela Jayawardene, who had taken over the reins from Marvan Atapattu a couple of series back. The visitors were looking to improve from their last visit to England in 2002, when they were beaten 2-0.

  The Test began on 11th May, which was significantly early in the summer. The captains were greeted with a good batting surface and Flintoff had no hesitation in batting first after making the right call. Marcus Trescothick – returning to the side after leaving the Indian tour due to reasons then unknown – looked in fine touch and gave England the perfect start, adding 86 with Andrew Strauss for the opening wicket.

  Muttiah Muralitharan dismissed Strauss for 48 at the stroke of lunch, but any hopes of a Sri Lankan comeback were extinguished by the left-handed pair of Trescothick and Alastair Cook, who put the bowling to the sword in a dominating second-wicket stand worth 127. The Somerset star survived two close LBW calls to reach his 14th Test hundred while Cook, playing his first home Test, almost came close to one of his own.

  Trescothick finally fell to Muralitharan for 106, which brought Kevin Pietersen into the middle. He began to display his full range of strokes and shared in a rapid partnership of 99 with Cook. Farveez Maharoof, who had been dispatched for nearly four and a half runs an over, had something to salvage at the fag end of the day when he had Cook caught behind for 89. England ended the day at a strong 318/3.

zzpie

      Kevin Pietersen sweeps en route to his 158 which propelled England to a huge total (source – theguardian.com)

  Nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard was cleaned up by Chaminda Vaas early on day two, but Pietersen, unbeaten on 54 overnight, continued the flow of runs. Much to Sri Lanka’s misfortune, the highest partnership of the innings was yet to come. The obdurate Paul Collingwood was a perfect foil for the flamboyant Pietersen, and the two made the fielders wilt with a fifth-wicket stand of 173.

  It was not until late into the second session that Sri Lanka managed to see the back of Pietersen, who fell LBW to Vaas for 158 – incidentally the same score he made in his previous home Test, which happened to be the crucial Ashes decider at the Oval. In all he faced just 205 balls and hit 19 fours and two sixes. Collingwood chipped in with 57, before England took tea with a declaration at 551/6.

  Sri Lanka’s day was going to get even worse. Staring at an imposing total, the top order caved in even though conditions were not exactly favourable for the bowlers. England were missing Steve Harmison due to a shin injury, but the reliable Matthew Hoggard was more than a handful. He sent back openers Jehan Mubarak and Upul Tharanga in quick time, both out plumb in front.

  Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put on 60 for the third wicket to provide a semblance of stability, but from thereon disaster struck. Debutant Sajid Mahmood (3/50) nipped out Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedera (the latter two for ducks) in consecutive overs to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 85/6. They ended the day needing 261 to avoid the follow-on.

  Jayawardene, with 61, was the only batsman to show up as Sri Lanka subsided for 192 by lunch on the third day. Hoggard bowled with discipline and economy to collect 4/27. Sri Lanka were 359 in arrears and with the match yet to reach the halfway mark, they needed a miracle to even remotely stay alive in the contest. The start of the second innings was familiar, as Hoggard dismissed Mubarak with only ten on the board.

  The pitch was as flat as ever and this was Sri Lanka’s big chance to dig deep. Tharanga (52) and Sangakkara (65) provided the first glimpse of a fight from the Sri Lankan camp, as they laid the foundation with a partnership of 109 for the second wicket. Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who like Cook was playing his first home Test, accounted for both batsmen before the day ended. Sri Lanka nudged to 183/3 with two days still left to negotiate.

  Day four saw a further fightback from the middle order, as nightwatchman Maharoof (59) accompanied his captain for more than 40 overs in a fourth-wicket stand which realised 118 runs. Sri Lanka’s resilience possibly had an effect on England’s fielders, who dropped more catches than they would have liked to. Jayawardene, who had a life on 58, scored a gritty six-hour 119 to add to his first-innings fifty.

zzjayu

      Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was named man of the match for his efforts of 60 and 119 (source – skysports.com)

  Yet, as the fourth day concluded, an English victory seemed just a matter of time. Sri Lanka had put on a brave front, reaching 381/6, but the lead was only 22. Kapugedera and Dilshan (69), the last of the assigned batsmen, fell in quick succession, leaving the tail to see out virtually the entire fifth day. When Liam Plunkett removed Dilshan, Sri Lanka were in effect 62 for eight.

  What followed was a sensational rearguard from the pace bowling duo of Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara that completed one of the greatest escapes in Test history. When Sri Lanka were 90 ahead just after lunch, Cook dropped Kulasekara – yet another miss which summed up England’s sloppy groundwork. The partnership eventually grew to Sri Lankan record of 105, by which time Sri Lanka were on safe shores.

  When Kulasekara was dislodged for a valiant 64 in over three hours, Sri Lanka’s lead was a secure 167 and less than 30 scheduled overs were remaining to be bowled. The final pair of Vaas – who remained unbeaten on a four-hour 50 – and Muralitharan saw off six overs in overcast conditions before bad light was offered and stumps were called. Sri Lanka had pulled off a stunning escape – their marathon effort ended at 537/9 after 199 overs.

  Jayawardene was named man of the match for his fighting captain’s innings, but he well knew that had it not been for the vital support from his teammates, the match would not have gone into the final day. Indeed, in complete contrast to the first innings, nearly every batsman from top to bottom played an innings of substance. There were seven scores of more than fifty in Sri Lanka’s second innings.

  This was only the third time that as many batsmen had scored more than fifty in a single innings – the previous two instances being England against Australia at Old Trafford in 1934 and Pakistan against India at Karachi in 2005-06. Meanwhile, England were left to rue an ordinary finish after controlling the game for the best part of four days.

  England bounced back from the disappointment with a six-wicket win in the second Test at Edgbaston before Sri Lanka, inspired by Muralitharan’s 8/70, levelled a well-fought series with a 134-run win at Trent Bridge. The visitors ended the tour in a positive vein, with a thumping 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series that followed.

Match Scorecard

 

Famous Test Matches – Sri Lanka v South Africa, Kandy, 2000

  South Africa came into this three-match series riding on a rich vein of form, having won their past five series and losing just one of their last 17 Tests. Five months earlier, they had secured a 2-0 sweep in India and now aimed at repeating the dose in Sri Lanka on their second tour of the country, the first being in 1993 when they won 1-0.

  But the off-field happenings could not have been more contrasting. These successes had come under the captaincy of Hansie Cronje, who was now a fallen figure after having admitted to match-fixing. Since the Indian tour, which was the focal point of the scandal, South African cricket had turned upside down and it was up to new captain Shaun Pollock to restore the team’s credibility.

  In the first Test at Galle, South Africa ran into a Sri Lankan outfit smarting from a 2-0 reversal at home against Pakistan just three weeks earlier and were drubbed by an innings and 15 runs. The South African batsmen were bamboozled by the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 13 wickets in the match.

  A week after the lopsided opening duel, the teams met at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy for the second Test, played from July 30 to August 2. A year ago, Sri Lanka had posted a landmark win – which ultimately gave them the series – against Australia at this venue and now were well poised to secure a maiden series win over South Africa as well.

  Sanath Jayasuriya opted to field after winning the toss, hoping that his bowlers would extract the maximum from the pitch which was initially a dry turner tailor-made for spin, but attained a fair share of moisture due to heavy rain prior to the opening day. It was evident that batting would be a challenge from the very outset.

  Pacemen Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa struck gold immediately, respectively sending back openers Gary Kirsten and Neil McKenzie for ducks within the first two overs. The introduction of off-spinners Muralitharan and Kumar Dharmasena only worsened things for the visitors. 

zzzulu      Lance Klusener struck an unbeaten 118 in the first innings to steer South Africa to safety from the depths of 34/5 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Dharmasena castled Daryll Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes while ‘Murali’ accounted for Jacques Kallis at the other end. With the top five back in the pavillion, South Africa were tottering at 34/5 in the 19th over and could not have imagined a worse start to such a crucial Test match. 

  However, they found their saviours in Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher, who combined for a fortune-changing century stand at a fast clip. The two forged 124 runs in 33.1 overs for the sixth wicket – mixing caution with timely aggression – before Boucher was run out for a gutsy 60.

  Pollock and Nicky Boje then fell in successive balls to Upul Chandana’s leg-spin, the score now reading 173/8. But Klusener carried on with intent and added 37 with Paul Adams for the ninth wicket and a priceless 43 with Nantie Hayward for the tenth. 

  ‘Zulu’ remained unbeaten on 118 off 219 balls – his third Test hundred and arguably his finest innings ever – as South Africa wound up at a respectable 253. He hit 13 fours and two sixes and showed great application in keeping the spinning trio – who took seven wickets between them – at bay. Sri Lanka ended an absorbing first day at 15/0.

  Openers Marvan Atapattu and Jayasuriya adopted a patient approach on the second morning as they realised 53 runs. Atapattu added another 56 with Russel Arnold for the second wicket as he frustrated the bowlers with his copybook technique. He was joined by Arjuna Ranatunga at 182/4 and the pair steered Sri Lanka to a lead of seven by the end of the day, with Atapattu on 107*.

  Atapattu and Ranatunga stretched their partnership to 104 before Pollock trapped the former in front early on day three for 120 from 292 balls with 15 fours. This led to a lower-order collapse as South Africa fought back with quick wickets. Ranatunga was sixth out for 54, contentiously given LBW off a rising Hayward delivery.

  The batsmen to follow failed to last long and the last six wickets thus fell for just 22 runs in 7.1 overs. Pollock was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets. Trailing by 55, South Africa again began poorly, with Zoysa removing McKenzie for the second time in the match with the score at 10.

  Kirsten too fell cheaply, bowled by Dharmasena, and when Muralitharan got rid of Cullinan, South Africa were three down and still behind by five runs. Kallis put his hand up amid the crisis and produced a solid innings under pressure on a tough pitch. He found support in Rhodes, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand worth 71.

zzkallor     Jacques Kallis’ solid 87 in the second innings gave South Africa an opportunity in spite of conceding the first-innings lead (source – gettyimages)

  Jayasuriya then dented the visitors with a key double-strike within the space of seven runs. He had both Rhodes and Klusener caught behind by young wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara to reduce the score to 128/5. Kallis looked good for a hundred but was castled by Muralitharan for 87 off 208 balls with six fours and a six.

  Kallis’ dismissal meant that South Africa were ahead by 131 with just two wickets in hand. They ended the third day placed at 192/8. However on the fourth day, the Proteas’ tail wagged again – Boje and Adams put on 45 for the ninth wicket before Chandana dismissed the former and Hayward in four balls to restrict the final total to 231.

   Not surprisingly, the spinners took eight of the wickets. Sri Lanka were thus left with over five sessions to score 177 runs and seal their first series win against South Africa. While the hosts had banked on their spinners, South Africa needed a good show from their fast bowlers to make a match of it.

   They indeed provided the perfect start. Pollock had first-innings centurion Atapattu LBW off the very first ball of the chase. At the other end, Hayward sent back the dangerous Jayasuriya in the same manner off his first ball before having Mahela Jayawardene caught behind four balls later.

  With both the openers out for golden ducks and the scoreboard reading a precarious 9/3, the visitors had seized the initiative. It soon became 21/4 as Kallis joined the party by taking Sangakkara’s wicket. Sri Lanka went to lunch at 41/4 with Arnold and Ranatunga in the middle.

  The second session saw Ranatunga – playing his penultimate Test – launch a breathtaking counter-attack. The former captain caught the South African bowlers and fielders off guard with a flurry of piercing shots to the boundary. He reached his fifty in just 36 balls while Arnold played the anchoring role at the other end. 

  Arnold and Ranatunga put their team well on course for victory with a partnership of 109 that took only 23.3 overs. With 47 needed, six wickets in the bank and a rampant Ranatunga at the crease, Sri Lanka were firmly in the box seat. It was Boje who provided a much-needed opening by removing Arnold, LBW for 40.

zzzzranat     In his penultimate Test, Arjuna Ranatunga smashed a rapid 88 to rescue Sri Lanka during their tense chase of 177 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Three runs later, Klusener scalped Dharmasena and South Africa were back in the hunt. Even then, they still needed to see Ranatunga’s back. The big moment arrived three balls before tea as the agile Rhodes caught Ranatunga at short-leg with a reflex catch off Boje. The score read 161/7 and the pendulum had swung.

  Ranatunga scored 88 in just 103 balls, adorned with 15 fours, and also passed 5000 Test runs in the process. But his dismissal had ensured that the Sri Lankan tail was left with the tricky task of scoring 16 runs as the final session began. Klusener, in the thick of things as always, bowled Chandana with a yorker off the very first ball post tea.

  The crowd at the picturesque ground was fast getting jittery as Zoysa joined his fellow paceman Vaas in the middle. The pair hung around for 29 balls, bringing the target closer by eight runs, before disaster struck in the form of a mindless misunderstanding.

  To add to the drama, Jayasuriya had come in as a runner for an injured Zoysa. With eight needed to win, Vaas, at the non-striker’s end, set off for a run but was sent back by a hesitant Jayasuriya. By the time Vaas made a return dash to his crease, it was too late as the throw from Kallis had found its way to Klusener and on to the stumps.

   The last man Muralitharan was out the very next ball, umpire Daryl Harper making an error of judgement while giving a caught-behind off Boje (3/24). South Africa had prevailed in a fluctuating match by seven runs and remained alive in the series by the skin of their teeth. Klusener and Ranatunga shared the man of the match award.

  South Africa had bounced back from a disadvantageous position in each of the four innings and eventually fought their way to a nerve-jangling victory. This is their second-narrowest win in terms of runs after their five-run triumph against Australia at Sydney in 1993-94. Also, this is Sri Lanka’s narrowest defeat. The hosts had themselves to blame for the twin collapses of 6/22 and 6/39.

  The deciding Test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club – Ranatunga’s farewell – ended in a draw and so did the series. South Africa’s unbeaten series streak continued until December 2001, when they were whitewashed 3-0 in Australia.

Match Scorecard