India v South Africa: The best Test matches in India

South Africa have had eventful Test tours to India. The African side first visited India in 1996 and since then have toured the country four times. Sportstar picks its three best Test matches from the past tours.

Virender Sehwag's second and final triple ton of his career arrived against South Africa in Chennai.   -  V. Ganesan

After a 2-0 and 3-2 drubbing in the T20 and ODI series, India will look to avenge defeat when they take on South Africa in the four-Test series, starting on November 5 in Mohali. The Test side will be motivated by the team’s recent series victory over Sri Lanka, India’s first overseas triumph since M. S Dhoni led his team to a series win in the West Indies in 2011.

However, home advantage aside, skipper Virat Kohli has plenty to worry about, keeping in mind how the current South African squad have convincingly defeated the host nation in their own backyard.

South Africa have had eventful Test tours to India. The African side first visited India in 1996 and since then have toured the country four times. Out of the five Test series, India lead the tally 2-1, with South Africa managing to draw the previous two series, in 2007-08 and 2009-10.

Sportstar picks its three best Test matches from the past tours.

India v South Africa, 3rd Test in Kanpur, 1996

It was South Africa’s first Test series in India. India won the first Test comprehensively, riding on Javagal Srinath’s six-wicket haul. South Africa came back strongly in the second Test, with Gary Kirsten smashing 102 and 133, and Lance Klusener picking up eight wickets in the second innings on his debut. The series was tied 1-1 going into the third and final Test.

India won the toss and elected to bat. On a slow Kanpur surface, which made batting quite difficult, W. V. Raman and Sachin Tendulkar smashed half-centuries. However, that was not enough for India to post a competitive score. Riding on Paul Adams' unorthodox spin, South Africa skittled India for 237 in the first innings, with the South African bowler picking up six wickets. The South African batsmen, too, failed to adjust to the under-prepared pitch and India bowlers Srinath and Aashish Kapoor took full advantage of it, as they bowled out South Africa for 177.

However, it was Mohammad Azharuddin’s second-innings knock which helped India back into the match. After losing Raman at the end of Day Two and Nayan Mongia and nightwatchman Anil Kumble early on the third day, India somehow managed to reach 192 for five, recovering from 91 for three. It was Rahul Dravid and Azharuddin’s partnership of 165, and the latter’s 163, which pushed India ahead and set South Africa a target of 461. With more than two days in hand, South Africa had all the time to force a win. But Srinath and Sunil Joshi picked three wickets apiece, and received solid support from Venkatesh Pradesh and Kumble. India were guided to a 280-run victory over the visitors, as they maintained their unbeaten record for the 10th Test series at home.

India v South Africa, 2nd Test in Bangalore, 2000

Four years later, Hansie Cronje and Co. returned to play two Tests. Both India and South Africa featured players who later on went on to become legends. The first Test was yet a low -scoring match. Nonetheless, India were dominating the Test until a poor batting performance by the home side in the second innings gave the visitors an upper hand and they went on to win the match by four wickets.

India needed to win the second Test in Bangalore to maintain their supremacy at home.

India, once again, won the toss and elected to bat. A combined bowling effort from South Africa bowled India out for 158 in the first innings. The Chinnaswamy pitch, despite being a dusty track, did no good for the Indian bowlers as South Africa went on to post 479. Kumble picked up six wickets, but Kirsten, Nicky Boje, Daryll Cullinan posted half-centuries while Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener missed out on the three-figure mark by a whisker.

In reply, the Indian top-order faltered again. Leading from the front, Azharuddin scored a century, but it was of no help, as he failed to find support from the others. India were bowled out for 250. Boje, who made his debut, picked up five wickets. South Africa defeated India by an innings and 71 runs, and went on to win the Test series 2-0. This was India’s first home Test series defeat in 13 years.

India v South Africa, 1st Test in Chennai, 2008

It was South Africa’s fourth visit to India, and the hosts had a 2-1 overall advantage. The first Test was at Chepauk, in Chennai. South Africa won the toss and elected to bat. Skipper Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie put on 132 runs for the first wicket. However, Hashim Amla was the chief destructor. He scored 159 and was involved in healthy partnerships with five other batsmen. Adding to India’s misery, AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher also scored handsomely to push South Africa’s total to 540.

However, what South Africa did not see coming was a Virender Sehwag tempest. Wasim Jaffer and Sehwag put on 213 runs for the first wicket. Later on, Dravid and Sehwag put on 268 for the second wicket. In the process, Sehwag went on to score his second triple-hundred in Tests. The most staggering feature of Sehwag’s innings was its speed. He scored 319 from 304 balls, smashed 42 fours and five sixes, and had an astounding strike-rate of 104.93.

McKenzie followed up for South Africa with an unbeaten 155 as the high-scoring Test ended in a draw.

The second Test saw the downcast phase of Indian batting, as South Africa won the match by an innings and 90 runs. However, India staged a comeback; they won the third and final Test by eight wickets to end the three-match series 1-1.

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