India v South Africa

A brief history

Cricinfo staff

Mohammad Azharuddin and Clive Rice shake hands at the toss © Getty Images

1991-92 in India
Wisden report | Cricinfo site
Nearly 22 years after being isolated from the international fold due to apartheid, South Africa arrived in India for a three-match one-day series. Thousands of fans lined the streets of Calcutta to greet the team and Eden Gardens - which hosted the first match - reportedly exceeded its capacity. India prevailed in a low-scoring game, but significantly for South Africa, it was their discovery of a world-class fast bowler in Allan Donald who took 5 for 29. India won the next game at Gwalior, and with it, the series. South Africa earned a consolation win in the final match in New Delhi, as Kepler Wessels and Peter Kirsten guided the side home in a high-scoring encounter under lights. Even in defeat, the South Africans returned home with indelible memories over the response from the Indian public, and an emotional captain Clive Rice was quoted in Wisden as saying, "I know how Neil Armstrong felt when he stood on the moon."
India 2 South Africa 1

1992-93 in South Africa
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India had the privilege of being the first international side to play a Test in South Africa since 1970 and the series got off to a cracking start in Durban, when Kapil Dev dismissed Jimmy Cook from the first ball. Praveen Amre's dogged century on debut on a bouncy track, kept India afloat in a drawn match. The start of the second Test at Johannesburg followed a similar script, and it was Brian McMillan's sound allround performance which helped his side hold the upper hand in another draw. The third Test at Port Elizabeth finally yielded a result, as India were blown away by Allan Donald, who finished with match figures of 12 for 139. The only bright spark for India was Kapil's scintillating knock of 129 amidst the ruins. Both teams went on the defensive in the fourth and final Test in Cape Town which was also drawn. Batsmen from both sides showed no urgency and India's sloppy catching wrecked their hopes of squaring the series. The seven-match one-day series was hardly a contest, as the Indians were outclassed in all departments, save for two victories.
Tests South Africa 1 India 0
ODIs South Africa 5 India 2

1996-97 in India
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A strong South African side led by Hansie Cronje arrived in India for their first full Test tour. The tour began with a tri-series also featuring Australia, as South Africa - after winning all their league games - choked in the final against India. The pitch for the first Test at Ahmedabad came under intense scrutiny, as the batsmen succumbed to the inconsistent bounce. South Africa fancied their chances with a target of 170, but weren't prepared for Javagal Srinath, who gnawed through the batting with 6 for 21 to seal a surprise win. The second Test at Calcutta witnessed a strong comeback by South Africa, though it was an unforgettable game for individual performances - Azharuddin's blistering century off 74 balls, Lance Klusener's dream debut with innings figures of 8 for 64, and Gary Kirsten's twin centuries. The teams then headed to Kanpur for the decider and South Africa were exposed in a Kanpur pitch where the ball barely rose above the knee level. Azharuddin's piled on the agony with 163 to set South Africa an improbable target. The win was a fitting end to the home season for India and was a rosy start for Tendulkar as captain.
Tests India 2 South Africa 1

1996-97 in South Africa
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Flying stumps and chin music greeted the Indians in the first Test of the return series in Durban, as South Africa earned sweet revenge for their loss in India, bundling out India for 100 and 66 in either innings. The lack of exposure to fierce pace and bounce was evident as India - both innings combined - failed to last an entire length of a day's play (72.3 overs). In Cape Town, the gulf between the two sides widened as South Africa piled on three centuries in their first innings. With half the side back in the pavilion and a massive deficit of 471, Sachin Tendulkar (116) and Mohammad Azharuddin (105) displayed one of the more remarkable rearguard actions seen in Test cricket, both flaying the bowlers at will, at a frenetic pace. Unfortunately, it was a case of 'good while it lasted' as India folded up in the second innings to concede the series. Bad light dashed India's hopes of winning the Johannesburg Test, which marked the emergence of Rahul Dravid as a world-class Test batsman. In the one-dayers, South Africa took the tri-series also featuring Zimbabwe, beating India in a closely-contested final.
Tests South Africa 2 India 0

1999-00 in India
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Wounded after an embarrassing 0-3 whitewash in Australia, India - in a vulnerable state - were caught off guard by South Africa in home conditions. Failure of the Indian top order was one of the main reasons, especially in the first Test in Mumbai, barring Sachin Tendulkar. South Africa made heavy weather of a modest target, rescued by Mark Boucher's crucial 27. South Africa rubbed it in further in the second Test in Bangalore, batting India out of the match and their 0-2 defeat ended one of their most miserable seasons. Importantly, South Africa's series victory ended a 13-year jinx by visiting teams in India. Tendulkar quit the captaincy, and India rebounded in the one-dayers, under Sourav Ganguly. The final ODI in Nagpur was famous for the match-fixing allegations against Hansie Cronje, Nicky Boje and Henry Williams, which came to light shortly after the tour.
Tests South Africa 2 India 0
ODIs India 3 South Africa 2

Gary Kirsten struck twin centuries at Kolkata © AFP

2001-02 in South Africa
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Another tour tarnished by controversy, this time the 'Mike Denness affair' taking centre stage. The first Test at Bloemfontein went without incident, notable for Virender Sehwag's debut century, as South Africa romped to an easy win. The second at Port Elizabeth was overshadowed by match referee Denness's ruling, in which he found Sachin Tendulkar guilty of ball-tampering and handed out one-Test bans for five other Indians for excessive appealing. The Indian board protested, stating that there may have been racial connotations in the ruling and after much pleading agreed to play the third Test. India drew the second match, lost the third by an innings, though the match was unofficial. South Africa won the Standard Bank tri-series also featuring Kenya.
Tests South Africa 1 India 0

2004-05 in India
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South Africa's third Test tour of India was almost a non-starter, as South Africa threatened to pull out if they failed to get any assurances that Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje will not be prosecuted by the Indian police in the match-fixing scandal. However, both players pulled out and the tour went ahead as scheduled. India were expected to wrap up the series comprehensively, against a South African side struggling for form, but things didn't quite go to plan at the start. The first Test at Kanpur was played on a featherbed of a pitch, with Andrew Hall frustrating India no end with an obdurate 163. After a dull draw, a relieved India took the second Test and the series in Kolkata, with the old firm of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh sharing all ten second innings wickets. Scheduling problems meant that the one-dayers had to be played at a later date.
Tests India 1 South Africa 0

2005-06 in India
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A year later, South Africa returned for a five-match one-day series to fulfil their obligations from the previous visit. One couldn't have asked for a better contest, with South Africa undefeated in 19 matches, and a resurgent India with a 6-1 victory against Sri Lanka behind them. South Africa drew first blood in Hyderabad, as India - barring Yuvraj Singh who scored an incredible century - stumbled on a seaming pitch. The pitch dictated the result of the second match as India pulled things back comprehensively on a slow turner in Bangalore. Seasonal rain in Chennai washed out an eagerly-awaited contest. Protests in Kolkata following Sourav Ganguly's exclusion and Greg Chappell's alleged 'finger gesture' to the protestors took the sheen out of the fourth one-dayer, and Graeme Smith helped South Africa blaze to a ten-wicket win on another seaming track. With only two possible outcomes, India squared the series in the fifth match in Mumbai, as Dravid steered India home in a pulsating contest between bat and ball.
ODIs India 2 South Africa 2

2006-07 in South Africa
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A rollercoaster of a series had several moments of cricketing excellence and was thankfully shorn of the controversies of India's previous tours of South Africa. India were thrashed 4-0 in the one-dayers, which made what followed in the first Test at the Wanderers all the more remarkable. India, led by Sreesanth's five-wicket haul, sliced through South Africa to bundle them out for a paltry 84. For a change, India's batsmen demonstrated sound application and patience to bat South Africa out of the match and Ashwell Prince's 97 wasn't enough to deny India their first Test win in South Africa. Prince was one of the architects of South Africa's comeback win at Kingsmead, scoring a hundred before Makhaya Ntini added the finishing blows with five wickets as India fell chasing a challenging 354. The third Test at Newlands was evenly contested for the most part, with India's new-look opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik dictating terms on the first day. However, the momentum shifted to South Africa, with Graeme Smith finding form with the bat. India contributed to their own downfall with their go-slow tactics, followed by an inexplicable collapse and shabby fielding display on the final day, all of which pointed to South Africa's remarkable series win after conceding the first Test.
Tests South Africa 2 India 1
ODIs South Africa 4 India 0
Only Twenty20 international was won by India

2007-08 in India
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Sehwag scored his, and India's, second triple-hundred in Tests to join Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara in one of cricket's most elite lists, and lit up a match that was a statistician's delight but destined to be a draw before a ball was bowled. The Chennai pitch, once firm and sporting, had played slow and low in recent years, and this one proved no different. In sweltering heat, India were not tempted to play an extra fast bowler, and South Africa, lacking quality spin options, turned to the slow left-armer Paul Harris. It consigned the game to be dominated by batsmen.

Contrasting scenes in Ahmedabad, where South Africa beat India inside three days. Dale Steyn and Ntini relished the extra bounce and lateral movement the pitch offered, bowling India out for 76, just one run more than their lowest total at home. The innings lasted only 20 overs in all, the shortest ever in a Test on the subcontinent, and India had given up the game on a platter. When South Africa replied - on a pitch that was easing up, against fast bowlers who did not have the same bite - the runs came easily. While India's middle order applied themselves in a much-improved show, the pressure of being so far behind told, and South Africa chipped away at the wickets.

Another three-day Test in Kanpur and India had squared the series. South Africa did well to get to 265 in their first dig, with the wickets shared around in Kumble's absence. When India's turn came, the going was not easy, but Ganguly and Laxman found ways to score where others had failed. India batted throughout the second day to secure a slender lead, and on the third morning a spirited last-wicket stand of 46 between Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma put India 60 ahead. Dhoni gave a sign of things to come, opening the bowling with Harbhajan Singh, who had bowled intelligently and creatively in the first innings. South Africa's batsmen responded strangely, almost in protest at having to play on such a surface, attempting to block their way out of trouble rather than trying to put some runs on the board. The approach was never going to succeed with almost three days of play left, and merely hastened the end.
Tests South Africa 1 India 1