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South Africa’s nail biting test win over Sri Lanka by three wickets late on the fifth afternoon to win the two match rubber was yet another confirmation of the resurgence and charm of the traditional game.

Shaun Pollock’s men had been on top throughout the one sided affair in the first test at the Wanderers (an innings and 64 runs), the visitors fought hard in the second test as they stretched the home team. Hashan Tillekaratne’s tenth test hundred gave life to an innings which ended on a creditable 323. Sri Lanka only totalled 322 in the two innings of the first test.

The test progressed in unpredictable fashion. The Proteas prospered then struggled. Mark Boucher and Pollock fashioned a vital stand of 132 for the 7th wicket to inch ahead. The arena was tense and the atmosphere full of attrition as neither wanted to concede the slightest advantage. Then Pollock was stranded on 99, Ntini in a moment of madness was caught to end another vital 40 run partnership and the innings, robbing the captain of a third test hundred. The anxiety and emotion of the moment was palpably noticeable, but the test still had to be won.

Sri Lanka managed to sneak ahead by 120 runs to force the South Africans to bat again. Kumar Sangakkara (89) and Mahela Jayawardene (40) were the only batsmen to get to decent double figures.

The test was turned on its head when Graeme Smith was trapped leg before off the first ball by Chaminda Vaas. Then the villain of the first test, Dilhara Fernando produced a spell to rock the top order and reduce the Proteas to 44 for five. In the heat of the battle and with the result swaying in favour of the Lankans we saw a new face on the visitors. This time they vexed verbally into the middle order when they sensed victory. South Africa were on the receiving end of a torrent of verbal bouncers and sledging.

It was fascinating to watch and hear and go right into the heart of the battle. South Africa held their nerve and pulled off the win, but, the game left an indelible mark on its followers and drew in a whole lot more into the intriguing world of test cricket.

In Christchurch in early 2002 the aura of the game was demonstrated by the fact that two protagonists Nathan Astle and Graham Thorpe infused more glamour in the game as they both raced to double centuries for their teams.

Within days of Adam Gilchrist’s hard hitting world record double century against South Africa at the Wanderers, Astle rewrote the record books in an audacious display. That great knock of 222 contained 28 fours and 11 sixes, the second hundred coming in only just 39 balls. Astle took batting to another plane and the world stood aghast, astonishingly the result had still gone against his team and Thorpe was named man of the match for his undefeated 200.

India’s comeback after being one-and-a-half test down against the rampant Australians is now cricketing folklore. They followed on, then after one of the greatest innings ever played, this time by VVS Laxman who scored a record 282 for the Indians and supported by Rahul Dravid’s 184, discovered another hero in Harbhajan Singh and turned the series and denied the Aussies the record winning streak of seventeen wins in a row.

The innovations of one-day cricket have arrived in tests. The Aussies have set a new tempo as they aim to score in access of three and four runs to the over to give their bowlers enough time to take twenty wickets.

The game is played in a new way and I am glad, for it will and must attract a new generation of young cricket fans.

Welcome to 21st century cricket.

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