Crickets greatest advert
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
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
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.