First Test Match


Toss: India. Test debut: A. M. Bacher.

Inspired bowling by Donald on a pitch the like of which most of the Indians had never seen before created a three-day finish. India's two innings required a mere 73.2 overs, with Donald claiming nine for 54. Their second innings, 66, fell nine short of the previous lowest against South Africa - by Australia, on the same ground in 1949-50.

The pitch provided excessive bounce as well as movement off the seam. South Africa's own batsmen were discomfited and the match would have been shorter still if India had had a third seamer of quality to support Srinath and Prasad, who bowled magnificently for five in each innings, and held their catches. Adding to the pitch's perils, the sky was overcast at the start, encouraging swing, so it was inevitable that Tendulkar would ask South Africa to bat. India struck early, when Prasad bowled Kirsten through the gate, but then Hudson and Bacher, impressively self-assured, batted until lunch.

Despite the clouds lifting, South Africa lost four wickets in the next session. Bacher was lbw to Srinath's first ball after lunch, Prasad induced edges from Cullinan and Cronje, and Johnson, who had been expensive in the morning, dismissed Gibbs. Hudson, though, had two escapes in the slips, at 39 and 42. His charmed innings finally ended at 80, when Ganguly got him to edge a drive. But by then, McMillan had also been let off; he initiated a recovery which Pollock and Richardson sustained against a tiring attack.

India's reply realised just 100 and lasted barely three hours, with Donald taking five for 40. He produced what he himself pronounced one of the most lethal balls he had ever bowled. It uprooted Tendulkar's off stump, and not only came back at him, but also beat him for pace. Four overs later, Azharuddin mishooked McMillan and, with Donald showing no mercy, the Indians surrendered an hour before tea.

South Africa's second innings featured the only three-figure partnership of the match, between Hudson and Bacher, who scored a distinguished maiden fifty. Once he was out, wickets fell at regular intervals until Mongia took his eighth catch of the match, an Indian Test record, at 185 for nine, But McMillan, who made a robust 51, hooking three sixes off Srinath, and Donald, who survived chances at two and six to bat for almost an hour, added 74.

Facing arrears of 394, India submitted meekly. Donald broke their spirit by dismissing Rathore and Ganguly in his first over. In his third, Raman missed a full toss, and the end was near when Tendulkar and Azharuddin fell to Pollock. Tendulkar was superbly caught in the gully by Kirsten, but Azharuddin gifted his wicket with a heave that would embarrass a No. 11. Dravid, however, showed distinct class in remaining undefeated for two hours.

Man of the Match: A. C. Hudson. Attendance: 41,216.

Close of play: First day, India 2-0 (V. Rathore 2*, W. V. Raman 0*); Second day, South Africa 164-4 (W. J. Cronje 17*, H. H. Gibbs 25*).

© John Wisden & Co