First Test


Toss: India. Test debuts: S. J. Cook, O. Henry, B. M. McMillan, J. N. Rhodes, B. N. Schultz; P. K. Amre, A. D. Jadeja.

A match of historic importance faded away into a draw after the fourth day was washed out. Even before that, the occasion made surprisingly little impact on Durban, with its huge Indian community: the total attendance was barely 30,000. It was a game of milestones, none the less: in South Africa's first home Test since March 1970 they included a non-white player for the first time, Omar Henry, who was their oldest debutant at 40 years and 295 days. It was also the first time television replays were used to settle awkward line decisions. On the second day Tendulkar changed his mind about a run and was trying to get back when Rhodes returned to Hudson. After a slight pause, Cyril Mitchley, the square-leg umpire, signalled to Karl Liebenberg, the umpire in the pavilion, by shaping a TV screen with his fingers. Thirty seconds later Liebenberg lit the green light to signify that Tendulkar was out.

The highlights of the actual game were centuries for Wessels, who became the first batsman to make a hundred for two countries, and Amre, on his debut, which ensured a rough equality in what cricket was possible. The game had a dramatic start and Jimmy Cook's long-awaited Test debut a disastrous one when he was caught at third slip from the game's first ball. No one had previously been out to the first ball of his first Test. But although more grass than expected had been left on the pitch it did not help the bowlers that much and Wessels stopped any possibility of a collapse.

Though Kirsten never settled, he stayed with his captain for more than two hours, before Rhodes helped add 82. Wessels's renowned composure was evident as he played every ball on its merits, with anything wayward nudged, deflected or, occasionally, driven. On 90, he broke out to hit three successive leg-side fours off Srinath, and was finally caught at slip 25 minutes before the close.

India made a wretched start, slumping to 38 for four, the wickets including that of Tendulkar, victim of the video replay. India were still in a parlous position when bad light ended play early at 128 for six. But Amre, supported by More, led a fine recovery on the third day. Their progress was slow but their self-control never wavered. Though South Africa were unfortunate to lose Schultz, who pulled a hamstring, the other bowlers delivered too many balls that could be left alone. As they tired, Amre began to drive and pull, and passed rapidly to his hundred. Several spectators ran on to congratulate him and a few cans were thrown on to the outfield as they were hustled off; Steve Bucknor, the West Indian umpire, helped get the intruders back behind the fence. Amre was caught soon afterwards at backward point. He had batted 378 minutes and hit 11 fours from 298 balls. More was last out, after five hours, but bad light and then the fourth-day washout prevented South Africa resuming until the final day, which effectively turned into a day of public practice.

Man of the Match: P. K. Amre.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 215-7 (D. J. Richardson 11*); Second day, India 128-6 (P. K. Amre 39*, M. Prabhakar 0*); Third day, India 277, Fourth day, No play.

© John Wisden & Co