South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1992 February 21, 2010

One-armed bandit

As his team-mates collapsed and Donald raged, Kapil Dev took the fight to South Africa

First there was the motorcade through Durban. And a few days later, a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Then two drawn Tests. Two more Tests remained, and in between India lost the one-day series 2-5. By the time the team arrived in Port Elizabeth, as we prepared to bid farewell to 1992, some of the gloss had already been taken off the Indian challenge. Allan Donald was quoted as saying that Indians ran from fast bowling.

His 12 wickets in Port Elizabeth ensured a South African win with a day to spare, but it was the batting of Kapil Dev in the second innings that remains in the memory.

He made 129 - the next highest score was 17 - which, along with VVS Laxman's 167 in Sydney and Tiger Pataudi's 148 at Headingley, must rate as among India's best centuries in lost causes.

The key was attack, and there were some of the finest drives you could hope to see on a cricket field. Kapil's generous back-lift and full follow-through sent the fast bowlers boundary-wards, and if you ignored the context for a while - and cricket is famous for elevating a phase of attacking batting or mesmerising bowling above even the result of the match - it was the most exciting counterattack.

None of the top six got to double figures, and when Kapil came in at 27 for 5 his first task was to stem the rot. The next morning he made 96 of 144 playing with an injured right hand. It was thrilling stuff.

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore