Senior ODI Player
- Mar 4, 2013
- Post of the Week
South Africa levelled the series in an invigorating Test watched by an estimated 50,000 people each day. Their batsmen found form on a true pitch and fast outfield and, for the first time, scored four hundreds in one Test. Two came from Kirsten - the third South African to achieve twin centuries, after Alan Melville and Bruce Mitchell - and there was one each for Hudson and Cullinan. The most sensational century, however, came from Azharuddin. He reached it in 74 deliveries, equalling the fourth-quickest Test hundred recorded in terms of balls.
Azharuddin hit debutant Lance Klusener for five successive fours. But Klusener rebounded in remarkable fashion, taking 8 for 64 in the second innings, the third-best bowling for South Africa in Tests and the best on debut. He said afterwards he had lacked rhythm in the first innings and, in an unsuccessful team strategy, had peppered Azharuddin with short balls. His triumph came after he shortened his run-up by half a yard and bowled to a fuller length. Klusener had been a surprise selection ahead of De Villiers, and South Africa also introduced 22-year-old Herschelle Gibbs to replace the injured Rhodes. India dropped Manjrekar as Calcutta-born Ganguly returned after a leg injury.
Winning the toss for the first time in eight international fixtures, Cronje chose to bat. There was assistance for the fast bowlers early on, when Hudson was dropped twice off Srinath's bowling. He and Kirsten took full advantage, piling up 236, the second-highest opening stand in South Africa's history. Though Kirsten began more fluently, Hudson gradually found superlative timing. But from 339 for two overnight, South Africa were pegged back to 428, thanks to outstanding pace bowling, especially from Prasad, who was unchanged throughout the second morning and returned a career-best six for 104.
India opened well through Mongia and the promoted Dravid, then slumped, partly due to two good run-outs from Gibbs. Meanwhile, Azharuddin had retired, hit on the elbow by McMillan. But he returned next morning when India slipped to 161 for seven and, with Kumble, managed to double that, setting an Indian record for the eighth wicket. Kumble showed up his team-mates by playing straight for his best Test score, and Azharuddin simply hammered the bowling. He scored his fifty off 35 balls, his century off 74, and pulled Adams for a six to go with his 18 fours before hitting him a return catch.
Kirsten and Cullinan then added 212 to put their team firmly on top again and raise South Africa's second-wicket record. India's eventual target was 467 in just over four sessions. With Donald off the field nursing a severely bruised left heel, Klusener seized the moment. He picked up three wickets by the fourth-day close and the final day was almost all his: he claimed the last five, three of them caught by McMillan at second slip.