South Africa dominated from the word go
The 1996-97 Indian tour of South Africa began with a drubbing at Kingsmead, Durban that set the Indians firmly on the back foot. Playing on a fast wicket, there was little the Indians put up in the form of resistance. The Indians, led by Sachin Tendulkar won the toss and put South Africa in to bat. When South Africa were bowled out for 235, it looked like the Indian captain had made the right decision. Andrew Hudson made a good 80 at the top of the innings, but no one else really got going. For the Indians Venkatesh Prasad was the pick of the bowlers. His 5/60 was easily the best bowling figures of the innings.
In response, the Indians stumbled to a paltry score of 100. When Prasad could pick five wickets, it was hardly surprising that the South African fast bowlers decimated the Indian batting line up. The openers failed miserably, with neither WV Raman or Vikram Rathour reaching double figures. After they were picked off, it was the Allan Donald show all the way. The speedster bowled the skipper and ran through the tail. His 5/40 easily overshadowed Prasad's performance. Not surprisingly, extras top scored with 16.
With a lead of 135 on a wicket that hardly looked like it would give the batsmen any respite, the South Africans drove home their advantage by notching up 259. This was due mainly to half centuries from Andrew Hudson, debutant Adam Bacher and Brian McMillan. McMillan's dash late in the innings helped South Africa put the match well out of reach if the Indians. His 51 came off just 54 balls. Prasad was once again the pick of the bowlers, picking up 5/93 and ending with match figures of 10/153.
India came out to bat for the last time in the match needing 395 for victory. Though the score was truly in excess of what South Africa needed, one did not think that they would end up winning by as much as 328 runs. Once again it was the familiar Indian collapse that came to the fore as Allan Donald outshone his first innings performance. Cleaning up the top three batsmen with just 7 runs on the board, Donald picked up 4/14, giving him overall pickings of 9/54. India were shot out for a pathetic 66, with Rahul Dravid making 27. No other batsman made runs worthy of mention. Having been beaten so badly in the first match of the series, it was difficult to see the Indians picking up the pieces in time to put up a good fight in the series.
At Cape Town, another thumping by the South Africans snatched the series away from the Indians. A 282 run victory sealed the Indians' fate as the visitors went 0-2 down in the three match series. Gary Kirsten's century gave South Africa a good platform to make a big score. They did make a huge score in the end. The innings was dotted with good performances as Daryll Cullinan made 77. This was followed by two more centuries, one by McMillan and another by Lance Klusener. As a youngster just making a name for himself in world cricket, Klusener did himself a world of good, slamming a better than run a ball unbeaten hundred. This took South Africa to 529.
The South Africans then tightened the screws on the Indians. This time around, Tendulkar and Azharuddin came to the rescue of the Indians as the rest of the batsmen just did not have it in them to stand up to the South Africans. Tendulkar blasted 169, the highest score of the series thus far and Azhar made 115 off just 110 balls. However, the rest of the batsmen put together made only 55 runs and India were once again looking down the barrel after being all out for 359.
A lead of 170 was enough to tilt the scales in the favour of the South Africans. Helped once again by half centuries from Andrew Hudson, Daryll Cullinan and Brian McMillan a confident South African team declared at 256/6. This left India with the difficult task of chasing 427 for victory.
Another shocking batting display ensued and India crumbled to 144 all out. No batsman made enough runs to even give India a glimmer of hope of saving the match. South Africa won by 282 runs and confirmed their all round domination of the Indians. For his consistent batting, McMillan was named man of the match.
With the series conclusively decided, the final Test match at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg became one of mainly academic interest. Ironically, the Indians put on their best showing of the in this match. However, rain on the final day delayed play just enough to see South Africa through to safety. Batting first, it was Rahul Dravid to the fore as he stroked 148 and propelled India to a score of 410 in the company of Sourav Ganguly (73).
In response, South Africa were bowled out for 321, giving India a lead for the first time in the series. The lead worth 89 was enhanced by yet another fine batting performance by the Indians. Dravid and Ganguly were once again the stars of the show making 81 and 60 respectively. An overall score of 355 put victory out of reach of the South Africans who were struggling at 228/8 when bad light stopped play. With four overs remaining and just two wickets in hand, an Indian victory seemed likely. However a rain delay earlier in the day meant that there was no possibility of completing the game. The match was drawn and the series went to South Africa 2-0. For his fiery bowling through the series, Donald was named man of the series.