Test batting winner

Day of the titans

When a batsman and a bowler at the height of their powers face off, like Tendulkar and Steyn did at Newlands, the cricket is bound to be incredible

Sidharth Monga

February 20, 2012

Comments: 58 | Text size: A | A

Best Test Batting Performance

Sachin Tendulkar
146, third Test, Cape Town

We look for various things in sport. Sometimes it is human will against the elements, sometimes it is a player's will against his own ability, sometimes it is athleticism, sometimes it is power, sometimes it is skill. One of the more ambitious pursuits of a fan is perfection everywhere. The rare instance when the conditions are perfect, and both opponents are perfect, performing to the best of their ability, in a mental and physical space that allows them to perform to the best of their ability. Many sporting contests are won because one of the opponents doesn't bring his best to a certain situation. We spend years, decades, eras waiting for that day of perfection. January 4, 2011 was one such in cricket.

It was sunny in Cape Town. There was no tablecloth on Table Mountain. It wasn't too hot either, allowing bowlers to bowl long spells. The ball swung, the pitch allowed seam, but the bounce was true and the outfield quick. Newlands had rolled out a really good pitch for the really good batsmen and bowlers. Lesser bowlers would go for easy runs, lesser batsmen would be easily consumed. On that day, the best bowler and best batsman in the world - at that time, at any rate - brought it.

Dale Steyn can go through spells of swing bowling operating within himself, in terms of pace, and then something suddenly clicks, and he suddenly starts producing vicious swing at high pace. That something had clicked before Steyn walked out on the field on that day. He began the first two sessions with two spells of perfect and accurate outswing, repeatedly carving out an inverted comma on the pitch with late swing, often pitching leg and missing off.

However, Steyn got just two wickets in those ten overs, even though he went for only 13. Later that day Steyn said he didn't have much to complain about what happened in those two spells. Inside 12 balls that first spell he trapped Cheteshwar Pujara lbw with a late swinger that pitched leg and would have taken off, got MS Dhoni to edge one just outside off, and got one to pitch outside Harbhajan Singh's leg stump before hitting off, only for the bail to not come off.

The other 48, he said, were nearly a write-off. They were faced by Tendulkar at the top of his game.

Determination, discipline and technique came together perfectly that day. Tendulkar stood outside his crease, played with soft hands when he did, and most importantly didn't push his bat outside the line of his head.

The jury says...

  • "Well, everybody knows how great he is and what a tremendous strokemaker he is, and he showed his versatility in Cape Town. Coming in with India struggling at 28 for 2, and the ball moving around off the seam, Dale Steyn was at his best under these conditions, and Tendulkar showed his class, his true class, in scoring 146. He faced 314 balls, which is not Tendulkar-like, the strike rate, but these were precious runs. He hit 17 boundaries and two sixes, and really, the game turned on the partnership he had with Gautam Gambhir. This was another side of Tendulkar, just showing his greatness - his ability to make runs when things were really tough and he really had to battle." Ian Chappell
  • "Cricket is a contest between individuals within the framework of team sport, and the contest between Sachin Tendulkar and Dale Steyn was one for the ages. To me, Steyn bowled the spell of the year, and in doing so he raised the bar for Tendulkar. Almost each ball in that spell was worthy of a wicket, and the way Tendulkar weathered him - with dead-certain footwork and playing very late - was a masterclass in batting." Sambit Bal

Tendulkar was bull-headed that day. Some batsmen counterattack at such times, and on occasion get away with it, ending up with charming innings. Tendulkar has done that himself in the past, but on this day he took the harder route. He changed the terms of play. He didn't want to take the risk that came with counterattacking. This was his last chance of winning a series in South Africa. He knew he couldn't possibly cover the swing of every ball. He just kept getting a stride in, eliminating lbws as far as possible, and playing at balls only if they ended up under the line of his eyes.

Once, Steyn pitched too full; Tendulkar drove him for four. Another time Tendulkar committed to a defensive shot well outside the line of off, and decided to withdraw the bat too late, getting a streaky four through the cordon. Apart from that it was almost impossible to break his discipline. It is one thing to tell yourself you are not going to play a defensive shot outside the line of your head, quite another to not be lured by the prolific and late swing. Tendulkar was in the zone that day.

Countering those two Steyn spells - shielding Harbhajan during the second, with the new ball - was just part of the job, though. Runs needed to be scored too. Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe weren't exactly bowling pies. However, they were not as consistent as Steyn. Tendulkar targeted them with regularity. Severe on any error in length, he pulled and cut with a measure of finality, drove with grace, late-cut delicately, and also played a shot that has seamlessly become a part of his repertoire, the upper-cut.

The hundred, though, came up with a top-edged six. You needed a little luck to survive Steyn and Morkel that day. Tendulkar had spent 14 balls on 94 before that, without showing any edginess. His strike rate, though it seemed like he increased the pace after reaching the hundred, was 46.49. These are numbers for those who start to suggest Tendulkar doesn't know what he is doing when he gets into defensive mode.

It was a special match. Steyn finished with 5 for 75 in that innings. Tendulkar 146 off 314, to help India take a two-run lead. Apart from that, Jacques Kallis scored two special centuries, the second of them through crippling pain ("Someone cutting their own rib", the doctor described it as being). Yet it remained a match ruined by two defensive captains. Dhoni's passive leadership allowed South Africa to get away in the third innings, and Graeme Smith's refusal to declare the third innings closed left no carrot dangling. India salvaged the draw with relative ease on the final day.

What happened on days four and five notwithstanding, the satisfaction on the faces of those leaving Newlands on January 4 told you they had seen something close to perfection.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (February 23, 2012, 13:33 GMT)

*A to Z Qualities that every person to be learned from Sachin:

A: Admiration, Adulation, Attention B: Belief, Brave C: Charity, Commitment D: Dedication, Devotion, Durable E: Encouragement, Endeavor F: Fearless G: Gratitude H: Humanity, Humble, Honest I: Intensity, Innovation J: Jive K: Kind L: Loyal M: Motivational, Master N: New ideas O: Overhaul P: Perfection Q: Quality R: Respect S: Steady, Silent T: Temperament, Technique U: Undertakings V: Volatile W: Wonderful X: X-treme Y: Youthful Z: Zero Gravity (Down to Earth)

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 12:34 GMT)

coming in with india struggling at 28-2????has mr.chappel forgotten something who rescued southafrica 130-6????

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

What a joke of an award. Tendulkar did not even win man of the match for that test, yet it is considered to be the best test innings of the year?

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 8:28 GMT)

Sachin was wonderful but piece de resistance came from Dravid. It is an absolute aberration that the best test batsman of 2011 did not even get a mention. He won a test match single handedly in windies scoring a hundred and 40 on a difficult wicket. He scored 3 hundreds against high quality seam bowling against England in hostile conditions. He was the lone midshipman in the sinking ship. Bell KP etc feasted on listless clubstandard bowling. It is indeed a travesty of justice that this guy never gets his due. To be defined by what he has missed has been his fate. Dravid in my opinion was irrefutably the best test batsman in 2011.

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 7:10 GMT)

@Al_Bundy1 get your facts right. Hifenhaus NEVER troubled SRT.Anderson did. Infact, only in couple of innings. It was Broad who actually had his number.It is credit to them.he was only second to Dravid there.

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (February 21, 2012, 6:31 GMT)

Kallis makes 2 hundreds in the same match, both when the team was in huge strife, one with a very painful injury. Sachin nicks one behind and doesn't walk and gets the prize..... am I missing something?

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 5:49 GMT)

God of cricket really deserves it. It was the really best inning of 2011 considering how steyn was on fire

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 5:10 GMT)

If you are a test cricket lover this is closest you come to heaven...the master blaster vs genius in making..love it..!!!

Posted by timtom on (February 21, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

To all those arguing for Draivd`s 146, no doubt itwas an excellent nock but it has come against the likes of Anderson, finn, broad who ended up with 0-3 in the very next series.So were they spinning in ABudhabi ? Need to have class consistently...Not taking away anything from Dravid`s 146 , but he never looked in comfort or control thru out the inning..Had oodles of luck that he went so far...Sachin was equally lucky on that day, but he was in complete control... If anything only PUP`s inning against SAF is on par with SAchin`s inning..

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 2:04 GMT)

For those of you whining about Sachin's award - here is the vote of the 16 member international jury. This is from the cricinfo lead story.....

"The Test batting category had the *widest gap) between the winner and No. 2 - six points separated Tendulkar's innings and Michael Clarke's 151, also scored in Cape Town, in the Test in which Australia dismissed South Africa for 96 and were then bowled out in their second innings for 47."

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 1:49 GMT)

There is an old saying: "Nothing Succeeds like Success"

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 1:47 GMT)

@Sashank Powar. "Zero Gravity" means -- NEVER down to earth.. always floating around in the air without purpose and direction, like spacemen in the outer space!. Just the opposite of what you meant. Great effort by you, but fizzled out at the end, just like the great man himself!

Posted by NikhilNair on (February 21, 2012, 0:42 GMT)

Anyone who watched that game live knows it... it was awe-inspiring! Both from Sachin and Steyn... two AMAZING players!

Posted by ptnair on (February 21, 2012, 0:42 GMT)

@bouncer3459 --- go look at the stats...

Posted by   on (February 21, 2012, 0:05 GMT)

Well deserved award for Sachin,specially for tht inning!

Posted by donda on (February 20, 2012, 22:42 GMT)

SRT is king of cricket. he deserve it and he is worth millions. He might be most over rated batsman for some people but look at his record in both test and ODI, he has played the longest in cricket history.

Give some respect to guy. He has played 6 times more cricket than Bradman but still people don't respect him. So sad.

Don't give respect to his batting , just give respect to his commitment to game . Come on guys.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (February 20, 2012, 21:34 GMT)

SRT has to be the most over-rated batsman ever. Best batsman award going to a batsman who made Anderson and Hilfy look like Ian Botham and Dennis Lillee, and made part time spinner Michael Clarke look like Murlidharan. What a joke!!

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 20:41 GMT)

Best test innings of 2011 :)

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 20:18 GMT)

Ok, no disrespect guys. Trott/ Cook/ Pietersen/ Dravid - each had some pretty amazing stints at the batting crease. But there were only two real contenders for innings of the year - Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Clarke. It's no coincidence that both came against one of the best pace attacks going around - led by the world's premier paceman (Steyn). I say this not with romanticized levity. ENG has a formidable attack too, but it hasn't quite traveled well yet. AUS ended the year well, but that's evidence against a faltering IND, and the same guys were found wanting against SA and NZ. But SA have performed well home and away. In Jan 2011, India's top ranked status in test matches might've been doubtful, but Tendulkar's form wasn't. However, surviving Steyn's spell on that day needed not just his skill, but dollops of luck. Credit to his focus he did. Clarke's innings in Newland mightn't have won the match, but it was a glorious counterattack which took him a step closer to greatness ..

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 19:45 GMT)

Sachin really deserves it and I also watched the classic innings of great caliber without a ball being missed. The knock tells how he really positioned himself to see the cricket balls from Styen as a football. This is the best example that thrills the soul. Those who could not see the best in it need to check thier neural circuit :)..

Posted by chilled_avenger on (February 20, 2012, 17:40 GMT)

I have no qualms with Sachin being the winner,it was a solid inning in adverse conditions against a lethal pace attack and he deserved to win it! What bugs me is that another brilliant Test knock played by a not-so-known batsman wasn't even considered good enough for nominations! I'm talking about Brendan Taylor's 147-ball 117 in the one-off Test against NZ. He could have played cautiously and gone for a draw which would have been a moral victory for his team! Yet he played aggressively(hitting five sixes en route) and went for the victory,not settling for a draw even against a better opposition. His team ultimately lost the game,but Taylor gained respect from experts for turning a heading-towards-a-dull-draw game to a thrilling contest and that's what Test cricket is all about! It is almost criminal to ignore such an amazing knock just because Taylor is not a big name or he plays for a weak team. So people,I just wanted to remind everybody of the of Taylor's forgotten knock...........

Posted by bouncer3459 on (February 20, 2012, 17:30 GMT)

The most over-rated cricketer ever.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

No confuition Sachin is great but why Dravid are so ignored

Posted by world.cricketer on (February 20, 2012, 17:08 GMT)

@Basit Dilawaiz;= this shows you didnot watch the match at all. award was given after all people and jury people watching carefully.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 16:52 GMT)

what a sorrow for kallis both innings centries and still awar goes to sachin pethatic decision by jury

Posted by Uttsbaby on (February 20, 2012, 16:51 GMT)

Why do people not understand it is 1 innings, not how well a batsman's year has been.

Posted by Biophysicist on (February 20, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

While one certainly appreciates Tendulkar's innings at Cape Town, I wonder in which way Dravid's 146 not out at the Oval is considered less. If anythinng, Dravid's magnificient and blemishless innings should have been rated better because of the fact that he was opening the innings, which is not his normal batting position and in view of the fact that he carried his bat. But for the fact that he ran out of partners, he would probably have gone on to score a much bigger score! I really wonder what is the justification of the jury to favor Tendulkar, when Dravid's performance at the Oval is clearly a better case for the award of the best innings of the year!

Posted by torsha on (February 20, 2012, 16:02 GMT)

We expect this from Master Blaster. Long live Sachin. People who are comparing this to Cook or Trott, they have forgotten that they both have hit their knocks on their home conditions. That's where Tendulkar differs!

Posted by Pakistanvictorious on (February 20, 2012, 15:18 GMT)

I often feel that these type of awards are for bigger cricketing countries, and low ranked teams like Zim, WI and BD have no right to get these. How can you exclude Mawayo's 163 in Bulawayo against world class bowling of Pakistan, how can you exclude Brendon Taylor's 116 against Bracewell, Vettori and Franklyn on 5th day of a test. Even they did not include the Chanderpaul's centuary against India on fourth day of a test and Edwards century on Debut in teh same match which helped WI draw the test. When it comes to Indian ego they say that no one can beat them in their home or match them in India but when it comes to admire someone they say that Bravo's heroics in India were on flat tracks where even Tendulkar could not match his brilliance. Due to monoply these awards have lost their value, at least for fans like me.

Posted by timtom on (February 20, 2012, 14:51 GMT)

@johnathonjosephs - u r right -- Samaraweera is a nobody...Steyn was at his best..every ball looked like producing a wicket..It was a feary spell...That tendulkar survived the onslaught put him in... I had seen all 3 matches of SA Bs SL..While SAF bowlers looked very good, even Steyn was no where at his best compared to that spell..and add to it the poor shotmaking from SL batmen who helped SAF bowlers get wickets... No comparison man...

SOmeone says Trott and Cookkk...even if Trott scoress 1000 runs in 500 balls he will never get it...It is just like if you have watched his game...

Posted by Shane_Perera on (February 20, 2012, 14:37 GMT)

best batsman : Tendulkar, Joke of the Century.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 13:59 GMT)

the god of cricket.......

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 13:49 GMT)

Fanatastic and fabulous Display Of Batting Against The Same Amount Of High Quality Pace and Swing Display By Steynn..... Treat To Watch......

Posted by the_wallster on (February 20, 2012, 13:33 GMT)

So Tendulkar scores freely against one world-class bowler and three part-timers in morkel, harris and whoever, yet when he becomes Anderson's bunny, Jimmy gets nothing? We all know that Tendulkar is a great player, but just because he shows a certain side to his game that is not an automatic shoe-in for an accolade. Dravid was the only batsman worth his salt against England, and his 146* at the Oval was a sensational knock, in uncomfortable conditions (he was opening due to Gambhir's injury), and played against the much-vaunted and best bowling attack around (Anderson, Broad, Bresnan, Swann). Farcical.

Posted by Romenevans on (February 20, 2012, 13:26 GMT)

LOL! Tendulkar? Is this a joke? Gotta be Trott or Cook's innings.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 12:38 GMT)

We expect this from master .....Hopefully many many to go before he calls it off ........Master we are proud of you !!!

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 12:21 GMT)

This was expected..., This is one of the finest achievements in cricket history. It is a fantastic performance by Sachin. Records do not matter to him. He will keep playing and records will follow him....,

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

Congrats Sachin...... :) The only player who keeps ppl still glued to any format he plays whether it is his critics or crazy followers

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 12:13 GMT)

This award is futile. When 8 matches were lost on back to back basis

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 11:55 GMT)

Dravid deserved one for his heroics in England. If it is Sachin, more traffic huh ?

Posted by VinodGupte on (February 20, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

that was only a year ago, but given the way the great man is playing these days, it sounds like it happened several years ago. we want to see fearless SRT, not the one who is cowed down by god-knows-what. he has got nothing to lose now, so why can't he play some fearless cricket? bring back those pulls, hoicks over mid-wicket and slog-sweeps. your back won't hurt much and even if it hurts, you don't have many years left in you so it doesn't matter. go down with your guns blazing. one last hurrah.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 11:42 GMT)

sachin tendulkar....best test batting performance????why cant the jury see that a guy named jacques kallis scored a 109* in the same match with a broken rib,his team in dire straits at 130-6,facing bouncers from sreesanth,ishant and handling harbhajans sharp turn and variable bounce....and still came on top.....and for your information tendulkar was caught behind of stryn...but the so called gentleman didn't walk.... why is he given that award???i guess just because he is tendulkar

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 11:39 GMT)

tendulkar??????best test batting????

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 11:02 GMT)

I'll never forget that test match for a long time. I bunked college to watch that match and boy was it worth it. It was a match of the highest quality. With Steyn in the middle of the finest spell I've seen by a fast bowler and with Sreesanth and Harbhajan bowling beautiful spells only two things separated both teams from winning the series, Tendulkar's brilliance and Kallis's heroism. If it hadn't been for defensive captaincy by Smith we would've had an absolute classic, which could'ver rival the legendary tied test between West Indies and Aussies.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

another memorable battle from sachin. Already sachin vs warne & sachin vs Mcgrath are there for eternity

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 10:23 GMT)

*A to Z Qualities that every person to be learned from Sachin:

A: Admiration, Adulation, Attention B: Belief, Brave C: Charity, Commitment D: Dedication, Devotion, Durable E: Encouragement, Endeavor F: Fearless G: Gratitude H: Humanity, Humble, Honest I: Intensity, Innovation J: Jive K: Kind L: Loyal M: Motivational, Master N: New ideas O: Overhaul P: Peace Q: Quality R: Respect S: Steady, Silent T: Temperament, Technique U: Undertakings V: Volatile W: Wonderful X: X-treme Y: Youthful Z: Zero Gravity (Down to Earth)

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 10:09 GMT)

A true legend in game. this century was really a good one

Posted by WarVdm on (February 20, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

It was en epic contest, but the truth is that it should have been over when Sachin was on 49 and he edged a Steyn outswinger to Boucher (who took it cleanly). The outcome of the Test Match and Series could have been very different. Nonetheless, the umpires can't always get it right and Tendulkar played an exceptional knock to score 146 and put India in a safe position.

Posted by pachako on (February 20, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

If DRS used in this match sachin was out earlier in this innings. this one of the reason Sachin hate that technology

Posted by abhibane on (February 20, 2012, 9:10 GMT)

A bit like Shahrukh Khan winning the Filmfare.

Posted by anil1628 on (February 20, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

teh real master sachin ..no body will repalce him and chase his records

Posted by sanzo5 on (February 20, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

Seriously.. it was one hell of an innings.... Steyn Vs Tendulkar.. i would pay my entire salary to watch a test classic like that....

Posted by Gupta.Ankur on (February 20, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

Sachin is the greatest batsmen ever and there is no other truth to it.

Posted by JustOUT on (February 20, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

If Tendulkar is awarded for best test batting performance, then by default Steyn should be the best bowling performaner to allow Sachin to get this award. Pity Steyn.. But still he is the BEST FAST BOWLER FOR LAST 5 YEARS!!!

Posted by natasrik on (February 20, 2012, 8:08 GMT)

The jury made a mess of the selection. My intial question how many jury members did the live commentary of the match, practically none. Kallis scored the first double in the match and he was indeed player of the match, so who is wrong Jury who declared kallis as POM or the jury who has declared the TEST INNINGS OF 2011. No doubt steyn is a class bowler but what about the support bowlers are they that much experienced as the Indian bowlers like Zaheer, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan singh, no comparision.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (February 20, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

I might add too, that while it was one of the greatest battles between ball and bat I have ever seen, it shouldn't be one for winning a batting award. Tendulkar produced many edges (on the ground and safe though) and the ball beat the bat almost every other ball when Steyn was bowling. Not really batting "masterclass" if you ask me, but Tendulkar did well to survive.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (February 20, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Tendulkar again slightly overrated. While it was a great performance, iSamaraweera had a better one. Samaraweera also toured South Africa and faced a man in insane form, Philander, and two in form Morkel and Steyns. Instead of Paul Harris he had to deal with Imran Tahir (more complete and better bowler). Tendulkar is chosen, because after all, he is Tendulkar. He has the big name next to him and he has the reputation. Therefore, whenever he makes a big score, it is shown as one of the best the world has seen. Samaraweera is a nobody. Though he did better than Tendulkar on the tour and faced better bowling in harder conditions, he won't get the recognition he deserves.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

I remember Tendulkar nicked the ball to the keeper...there was a huge appeal..Upmire couldn't hear the nick. Tendulkar didn't walk....

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