1996 – Tendulkar’s off stump sent cart-wheeling by Allan Donald. 100 in the first innings in Durban, 66 in the second innings. Magic from Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town, ended only by a magical catch by Adam Bacher. Rahul Dravid’s maiden test ton at Johannesburg. The test series won by South Africa 2-0 after rain and bad light frustrated India’s hopes in Johannesburg. Donald swearing at Dravid and Tendulkar while they cart him around in the ODI tri-series final.
2006- Sreesanth’s magical spell at Jo’burg. 2-1 to South Africa.
2011 – Tendulkar (146) v Steyn (5/75). Spell-binding cricket. Series drawn 1-1.
2013 – A near world record chase of 458 at Jo’burg. A six wicket haul by Steyn and a farewell hundred by Kallis helps the Saffers take the series 1-0.
After what felt like a million meaningless cricket matches against Sri Lanka, India has reached South Africa. And if you are feeling a mixture of dread and excitement, you are not alone. The first test of the Freedom Series begins at Newlands in Cape Town tomorrow – finally some competitive cricket!
With drought like conditions prevailing in Cape Town at the moment, the pitch is not expected to be as a quick as those for the next two tests in Centurion and Johannesburg. There is currently a good covering of grass on the pitch and some cracks but both teams will wait until the final strip is unveiled to declare their playing XI.
Steyn, Morkel, Rabada and Philander – South Africa have some serious firepower in their ranks! Add to the mix Amla, De Kock, AB de Villiers and Du Plessis and you have a team of world-beaters. A few questions hang over South Africa though – are Steyn and Morkel as fit as they can be? Can the support cast pitch (Elgar, Bavuma, Morris and Keshav Maharaj) pitch in to help the aforementioned stars out? Also, how do they meet their transformation targets with the return of AB de Villier and Dale Steyn? A few selection headaches lie in store for skipper Du Plessis and their new coach, Otis Gibson.
South Africa will remember the 0-3 series loss on designer spinners’ wickets in India in 2015 and will be looking to settle a few scores.
The Indian batting line-up looks settled with Rahul and Vijay at the top. Their role will be to blunt the South African new ball attack of Philander and Steyn to protect the stroke-makers to come. Dhawan, the most flashy of the Indian openers, will probably sit this one out.
In the middle order, Pujara will put a price on his wicket and King Kohli will, as ever, be the big prize (expect the Saffers to target him with words as well as the short ball). Rahane has not been in great form but will be hoping to draw on the memories of the last time he played in South Africa – he scored 96 and really launched his test career here.
The best signal of intent from India will be the inclusion of Hardik Pandya instead of Rohit Sharma. While Rohit has been in breathtaking limited overs form, will a sixth batsman be able to do what the five before him have not accomplished? Pandya also already has a test hundred to his name in his short test career. An aggressive seaming all-rounder in Pandya will also give India the X-factor and will help ease the load on the quicks given the extremely hot conditions in Cape Town. Ashwin is likely to be the sole spinner (Jadeja is out with a viral infection). Saha will play the part of the solid wicketkeeper-batsman. Ishant and Bhuvi should sit out and our fastest attack consisting of Umesh, Shami and Bumrah should play the first test.
India will be quietly confident. New Zealand, England, Australia and South Africa have all been crushed ruthlessly at home but no one will be more aware than Kohli that the Indian team has not had much success away from the sub-continent after the Ganguly/Dravid era. The away tours planned in 2018 (South Africa, England and Australia) are the toughest assignments possible and it is here that Kohli’s legacy will be made or destroyed.
Expect India to come out firing on all cylinders tomorrow – we cannot wait!
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