Team India will be embarking on one of the toughest tours to South Africa in the beginning of their overseas season. The Indian team will play three Tests, six ODIs, and three T20Is on the tour and it is seen as one of the most intense examinations of the no.1 ranked Test team.
Though India has never won a series in South Africa, with a 1-1 draw being their best result so far; Indian batsmen have always shown their mettle against the mighty fast bowlers of the rainbow nations. Ever since India first toured South Africa in 1992, Indian batting has given a tough fight to South African bowlers, despite the failures of the team as a whole.
Here are 7 of the best Test innings by Indian batsmen against South Africa:
148 - Rahul Dravid
3rd Test, Johannesburg, 1997
The occasion was the third test of the 1996-97 tour at Johannesburg and India had already lost the three matches Test series and the third Test was India’s chance to save face.
India won the toss and batted first, but lost the openers Rathour and Mongia for 46 runs on the board. Rahul Dravid anchored down and added 54 runs with Sachin Tendulkar and 145 runs with Sourav Ganguly, who made 73 runs. Dravid himself hit a wonderful 148 runs in 362 balls with 21 fours to his name. He faced bowlers like Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Brian McMillan and Lance Klusener at their peak.
Even Donald praised the guts and technique of Dravid on a considerably fast Joburg pitch, to score consistent runs during the innings. India scored 410 in their first innings, thanks to a wagging tail. Javagal Srinath took 5 wickets to stop South Africa to 321.
The match ended in a draw with Dravid making 81 runs in the second innings as well, taking India to 266/8d, setting South Africa 356 runs to chase. India came very close to winning the Test, as Srinath, Prasad and Kumble reduced South Africa to 228/8 by the end of the day, with only Daryll Cullinan making 122* to save the Test for the Proteas.
115 - Mohammad Azharuddin
2nd Test, Cape Town, 1997
The second Test of the 1997 Test series saw one of the best rearguard actions from the two of the greatest Indian batsmen ever. This time, however, we talk about Mohammad Azharuddin’s brilliant innings of 115.
South Africa batted first and scored 529/7d with centuries from Gary Kirsten (103), Brian McMillan (103*) and Lance Klusener (102*). Indian team needed to reply strongly, the Proteas bowlers reduced Team India to 58/5.
However, former captain Azharuddin and then captain Sachin Tendulkar added 222 runs together for the 5th wicket. Azharuddin took the attack to the bowlers with his 115 runs coming in 110 balls with 19 fours and 1 six. He took the pressure off Tendulkar and went after their strike bowlers in Donald and Klusener.
Though Team India lost the Test, Azharuddin’s brilliant counter-attack and the partnership with Sachin Tendulkar has been part of the India-South Africa legacy so far.
96 – VVS Laxman
2nd Test, Durban, 2010
Team India achieved their best result in a series in South Africa in 2010, by drawing the three-match series 1-1. The win came at Durban and was attributed to the whole team. India scored 205 in their first innings with VVS Laxman scoring the highest of 38 and Dale Steyn taking 6/50. Harbhajan Singh’s 4/10 restricted South Africa to 131.
India was reduced to 56/4 in the second innings, but VVS Laxman dug in and scored a masterful 96 off 171 balls with 12 fours. Others contributed runs, but the whole innings revolved around VVS Laxman. His innings took India to 228, setting South Africa a target of 303 runs. Three wickets each by Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth stopped the Proteas innings at 215 and India won the Test by 87 runs.
VVS Laxman was awarded the Man of the match for his brilliant innings.
105 – Virender Sehwag
1st Test, Bloemfontein, 2001
Virender Sehwag had made his ODI debut for India in 1999 against Pakistan and after some impressive innings, India decided to give him his Test debut on the tour to South Africa in 2001. Sehwag made his debut in the first Test in Bloemfontein.
India batted first and was in trouble at 68/4. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, who batted at no.6, stitched a 220 runs partnership to take India out of trouble. Sachin scored 155, but the man of the moment proved to be Virender Sehwag, who scored 105 on his Test debut.
There were speculations whether Sehwag would be able to adjust to the five-day format, given his flawed technique and penchant for aerial shots. But Sehwag took to Test cricket like a fish takes to water.
He showed patience and took on the bowlers when needed to and played 173 balls for his 105, including 19 fours. India scored 379 in their first innings.
South Africa replied with 563 runs with Herschelle Gibbs scoring 107 and Lance Klusener scoring 108. India imploded in the second innings to get bowled out for 237 runs and South Africa scored the required 54 runs to win the Test.
119- Virat Kohli
1st Test, Johannesburg, 2013
The first Test of the 2013-14 series at Johannesburg between India and South Africa proved to be one of the most interesting draws of the rivalry. South Africa was set world record target of 458 to win the Test and they ended up on 450/7 on the final day.
India had batted first to score 280 runs. The hero of the Indian innings was Virat Kohli, who scored a sublime 119 off 181 balls on a dicey pitch. The next best score was 47 runs from Ajinkya Rahane, as Vernon Philander ran riot with 4/61 on a seaming wicket.
Virat was meticulous in finding gaps and negotiated the pace, seam and swing brilliantly from the Proteas pace attack. South Africa scored 244 in their first innings with fifties from Graeme Smith and Vernon Philander.
India came back strongly in the second innings to score 421 runs with Virat Kohli scoring 96 runs and Cheteshwar Pujara making 153, to set South Africa a target of 458. Faf du Plessis scored 134 and AB de Villiers scored 103 to take South Africa within 8 runs of the target.
129- Kapil Dev
3rd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1992
The first ever Test series between India and South Africa consisted of four Test matches and was a tightly fought series, despite India losing it 1-0. India managed to draw three Tests with superlative performances by both batsmen and bowlers. But the best innings during the series came from Kapil Dev in the 3rd Test of the series.
The only Test that India lost in the series was the 3rd Test played at Port Elizabeth. India batted first and scored 212 runs with captain Mohd Azharuddin making 60 runs. Allan Donald took 5/55. South Africa was also stopped at 275 runs despite 135 from Hansie Cronje, with Anil Kumble and Venkatpathy Raju taking three wickets each.
Allan Donald and Brett Schultz reduced India to 27/5 in the second innings. However then veteran Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev took the attack to the South African bowlers and scored a great knock of 129 runs in 180 balls with 14 fours and one six.
He single-handedly took India to 215 amidst the wreckage of the Indian batting. The next best score was 17 runs, as Donald picked 7/84 to complete 12 wickets in the match.
South Africa needed 153 runs to win the match and skipper Kepler Wessels hit 95* to win the match for the Proteas team.
The extremely brilliant knock of 129 by Kapil Dev was the last Test century scored by the greatest all-rounder India produced.
169 – Sachin Tendulkar
2nd Test, Cape Town, 1997
Sachin Tendulkar’s 169 can very well be described as one of the greatest innings he played in Test cricket. The 1997 tour to South Africa was Sachin’s first overseas tour as the Indian captain and unfortunately, it didn’t go well for the little master.
India has lost the first Test in humiliating fashion by 328 runs as they were bowled out for 100 and 66 at Durban. India was looking for some retribution when the second Test came along at Cape Town. South Africa batted first and with centuries from Gary Kirsten (103), Brian McMillan (103*) and Lance Klusener (102*), scored 529/7d.
The South African pace attack took advantage of the pace and bounce in the Cape Town track to reduce India to 58/5 and staring at a repeat of Durban Test. However, two of the most aggressive players of the Indian team, Sachin Tendulkar and former captain Mohammad Azharuddin threw caution to the wind and decided to take the Proteas attack by the scruff of their necks and launched a stunning counterattacking assault.
No one was spared as the likes of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Brian McMillan were taken to the cleaners and were hit to all parts of the ground. The Tendulkar-Azharuddin partnership added 222 runs to take India to a score of 359. Azharuddin scored 115 off 110 balls with 19 fours and one six.
Captain Sachin Tendulkar scored 169 off 254 balls with 26 fours to his name and his innings came to an end thanks to a brilliant one-handed catch by Adam Bacher off Brian McMillan.