Writers on the best day, session or passage of play they've seen live

South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1992

One-armed bandit

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

Suresh Menon

February 21, 2010

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Kapil Dev plays the cut, England v India, 3rd Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 24, 1990
No pain, no gain Trevor Jones / © Associated Press
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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

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Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.

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