Unofficial Test

South Africa v India

Amit Varma

At Centurion, November 23, 24, 25, 26, 27. South Africa won by an innings and 73 runs. Toss: South Africa.

This match was neither one thing nor the other. The South African team were told by their board to treat it as unofficial while India were under orders to treat it as a proper Test. Yet it was South Africa who rolled on methodically and relentlessly, and the Indians who were lacklustre and bored and threw the match away with feckless batting and wayward bowling.

With the ICC officials departed, the South African board appointed two home umpires and a home referee, Denis Lindsay, who was to supervise India's series with England in December. Despite withdrawing Test status, the ICC promised no reprisals. They did not, however, accept that Virender Sehwag's omission here fulfilled his one-Test suspension. Ganguly took the opportunity to rest after back spasms; Connor Williams stepped up for his first game of the tour, an international debut of sorts for him and for Jacques Rudolph, both of whom were left, like Alan Jones after the England-Rest of the World series in 1970, in the limbo of the nearly capped.

In the circumstances, it was little surprise that the Indians were overwhelmed by the South African batsmen. Gibbs and Kirsten shared another century opening partnership; Kallis scored 110 in 234 balls, with 18 fours; and finally Pollock moved the game up a couple of gears, dashing to 113 in 109 balls, with nine fours and seven sixes, before declaring 334 ahead on the fourth morning. Williams and Das batted bravely to reach 92 without loss, but both fell before rain brought an early close. The South Africans needed only six more wickets on the final day, as Srinath and Prasad were both injured. Srinath had managed to bowl 27 overs with a broken finger on his left hand (struck by Hayward on the first evening), while Prasad had hurt his neck. Their colleagues - including Tendulkar, who played ludicrously, as though imitating the wild abandon of Harbhajan's batting in the nets - were bowled out with most of two sessions remaining.

Man of the Match: S. M. Pollock.

© John Wisden & Co