1992-93 Test series:
1. Long-awaited debuts:
The first Test at Durban witnessed two players making their Test debut for South Africa at a very late age. Omar Henry was the first non-white player to don the South African outfit ever. He became the oldest player to make his debut in Test cricket at the age of 40 years and 295 days. The left-arm orthodox spinner played just three Tests for the Proteas in his career, all in the same series.
Another player who made his Test debut in the twilight zone of his career was Jimmy Cook. The opening batsman from Transvaal was almost 40 years old when he played his first Test against India. His first taste of the international level wasn’t too sweet as he was dismissed by Kapil Dev off the first ball he faced.
Cook thus became the first player to get out on the first ball of his debut Test. The right-hander was featured only in three Tests like Omar Henry.
2. Introduction of television umpires:
The game of cricket witnessed a new innovation during the 1992-93 series when television replays were introduced for the first time on the international stage. It was a historic moment in the sport’s history when Sachin Tendulkar became the first Test player to be adjudged out by the third umpire.
It was day 2 of the Durban Test. Tendulkar was looking good on 11 runs before a moment of indecision with his partner resulted in a run-out attempt. After waiting for a few seconds, leg-umpire Cyril Mitchley signaled to Karl Liebenberg who was the TV umpire in the match. The Red Light was shown and Tendulkar’s name was entered in the history book.
3. An unusual feat:
It is a very rare thing you will see one player representing two nations at an international level. South African-born Kepler Wessels is one player to achieve this milestone. The southpaw made his debut for Australia in 1982 and scored a magnificent ton in his first Test innings. In 1992, he became the first new captain of South Africa after the team was reinstated into the international arena.
In the first Test match at Durban, Wessels played an exceptional knock to score his 5th Test ton. With that knock, he became the first man to score a hundred for two different nations. It was a very rare feat that wasn’t been achieved before. The former Proteas skipper scored a magnificent 118 runs off 266 balls which included 18 hits to the fence.
4. A knock-out blow:
In his initial years, fast bowler Javagal Srinath was very lethal with the new ball. He used to ball out-and-out quick and his bouncers and wild-swinging deliveries could make any batsman struggle against him. The seamer from Karnataka was particularly deadly against the middle and lower-order batsmen who used to get intimidated by his raw pace. Here is an unforgettable moment of Srinath’s bustling quickness in the 2nd Test at Johannesburg.
On day 2, the Proteas lower-order batsman Meyrick Pringle got struck over his eye by a dangerous short delivery from Srinath. Pringle immediately fell to the ground and started bleeding profusely. The South African retired hurt on 3 runs and was quickly carried out of the field on a stretcher.
He got several stitches over the bruise. Pringle didn’t feature in any Test matches for two years until he made a comeback in 1995. One can rightly recall this incident as ‘the fast bowler got the dose of his own medicine’.
5. Kapil’s final ton:
With 14 years of international cricket behind him, Kapil Dev was an experienced campaigner in 1992. He had already established himself as the greatest fast bowler during that era and the best Indian cricketer of the century. On this historic tour of South Africa, even the Proteas got a dose of Kapil’s greatness.
It was the third Test in Port Elizabeth and the Indian team had its back firmly against the wall. The subcontinent nation was tottering at 31-6, still trailing the Proteas lead by 32 runs. Kapil started the counter attack from ball one and unleashed a barrage of breath-taking stroke play. He piled on 129 runs off just 180 balls, including 14 hard-hit boundaries and a massive six.
It was his last ton in Test cricket but it came in a losing cause as his nation was beaten by 9 wickets. Wisden rated the Indian legend’s final ton in the all-time 25 best hundreds list.
1996-97 series in India:
6. Azhar lights up Eden Gardens with fireworks:
It was the 2nd Test of the series at Kolkata and the hosts were 1-0 up in the series. But this time India were on the backfoot, tottering at 119-6 in reply to South Africa’s huge total of 428. Azharuddin decided that he had had enough of it and started to give it back to the Proteas bowlers with the bat. The former Indian skipper scored a lightning quick 109 in just 77 balls to take India’s total past 300 runs.
A young all-rounder name Lance Klusener was making his debut and he got the first experience of the flipside of international cricket when Azhar simply decimated him with his class and elegance. In the 61st over, Klusener was whacked around for 5 consecutive boundaries in the same over by the former Indian skipper.
The debutant had a berserk look on his face as Azharuddin played two glorious cover drives and three elegant flick shots. But Klusener had the last laugh as he picked up 8 wickets in the second innings to lead his nation to a famous first win on Indian soil.
1996-97 series in South Africa:
7. Abysmal day in Indian Test cricket:
Indian batsmen have always struggled against the pace and bounce of the pitches in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Here is a great example why critics are always harsh about the Indian team’s batting performances on overseas tracks. It was the first Test of the series at Durban and India were set a challenging target of 395 runs on day 3.
From the first delivery, India never looked in the hunt as Donald and Pollock blew them away with outstanding spells of bowling. The subcontinent giants crumbled down to their knees as they were bowled out for a dismal total of 66 runs in just one and a half sessions.
It was a black mark in the nation’s cricket history as it was the lowest completed total against South Africa and this defeat remains one of the bad memories in the minds of many Indian fans. India were also dismissed cheaply in the first innings for a humiliating total of 100 runs.
8. Adam Bacher’s air-borne miracle:
It was day three of the second Test at Cape Town. Sachin Tendulkar and Azharuddin were looking in destructive form as they laid the Indian fightback with a staggering 222-run stand for the 6th wicket. The duo smashed a Test ton each. Azhar departed for 115 runs but Tendulkar continued with the onslaught, clobbering the Proteas attack. The ‘master blaster’ looked unstoppable that day.
Tendulkar was batting on 169 runs with last man Dodda Ganesh. The batting genius pulled a short delivery from Brian McMillan towards the deep-square leg region. The ball was destined to easily end up landing into the crowd until a miracle took place.
Adam Bacher took one of the greatest catches in the history when he jumped about four feet in the air to pluck an amazing one hand catch on the boundary rope. Tendulkar stood in the middle for few minutes with a look of disbelief on his face. The picture of Bacher’s taking a ripper remains framed in the mind of many cricket fans around the world.
9. Good sportsman spirit:
It was this particular tour where Rahul Dravid established himself as a solid Test batsman. With the series already in South Africa’s bag, the final Test headed to Johannesburg. Dravid played a glorious innings of 148 runs in the first innings to put India into a dominating position. The right-hander cut, pulled and drove gracefully to score his maiden Test ton in some gloomy and bowler-friendly conditions.
It was one of the most terrific knocks anyone would have ever seen. Dravid’s excellent innings finally came to an end when captain Cronje dismissed him. On his way back to the pavilion, Dravid received a standing ovation from the crowd. The Proteas skipper ran upto Dravid and shook his hand firmly and congratulated him on achieving this great milestone.
Praise also came from the most unlikely corner – Allan Donald, who shared one of the fiercest rivalries with Dravid on that tour. The fast bowler patted Dravid on his back. The South African player’s gesture was well appreciated by many people around the world.
10. The arrival of the ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’:
Virender Sehwag announced his arrival on the biggest stage with his first overseas tour of South Africa. The swashbuckling right-hander was making his debut and he came into bat at a juncture when India were struggling at 68-4 on day 1 of the first Test. The Delhi batter along with his idol Sachin Tendulkar did the rescue act by sharing a fighting partnership of 220 runs. The duos matched each other stroke to stroke and were just toying with the South African bowling.
Sehwag achieved a rare feat of scoring a Test ton on debut as he played an entertaining knock of 105 runs. His maiden century included 19 smashing hits to the fence. The ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ thus unleashed himself as a serious threat to all the bowlers around the world with this majestic knock.
11. ‘Denness the Menace’:
The 2001-2002 bilateral series between South Africa and India perhaps ended in a most controversial fashion. After the third day’s play in the second Test, match referee Mike Denness made a stunning announcement as he handed Tendulkar a one-Test ban for his act of ball tampering on day three. The batting great was found guilty of cleaning the seam of the ball with his nails and not informing the umpires.
Tendulkar was also fined 75 per cent of his match fees for bringing the game into disrepute. Five other Indian players faced disciplinary actions too from the match referee.
Deep Dasgupta, Harbhajan Singh and Shiv Sunder Das were fined 75 per cent of the match fees for excessive appealing. Sehwag received more harsh judgement as he was banned for one-Test and was also fined 75 percent of match fees for showing dissent towards an umpire’s decision. Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly wasn’t spared too as he was handed a one Test and two ODI ban for not controlling his players on the field.
Denness’ actions were not well greeted by former India cricket greats and the media. The English match referee’s effigies were burnt on the streets by Indian cricket fanatics. This incident was marked as a shameful and disgraceful act on ICC’s code of conduct.
12. Sreesanth’s dancing lessons to Nel:
Indian speedster Sreesanth is well renowned for his break-dancing skills. If the Proteas were unaware of his abilities with the body moves, they were in for a dose of it. In this series, India showed plenty of aggression and were giving it back to the South African players in every department.
The hosts were on the backfoot in the Johannesburg Test and they started to feel the heat on day 3. Fast bowler Andre Nel felt the pinch first when Sreesanth played and missed one delivery. Nel went upto the Indian seamer and showed his nation’s batch on the jersey and had a few words to exchange.
Sreesanth didn’t back down as he came down the track next ball and whacked Nel for a massive straight six over his head. What followed was one of the funniest and most entertaining incidents to ever take place on a cricket field. Sreesanth ran past Nel with his bat whirling in the air like a sword and his hips moving like a belly dancer.
It was like the ‘Kerala Express’ won a war on the battlefield. Ravi Shastri, who was in the commentary box, tumbled down his chair laughing aloud.
Even a few South African cricketers on the field couldn’t control their laughter. All Andre Nel would have learnt from that incident is that to never challenge Sreesanth in a dancing competition.