India in South Africa: History of Test Cricket in the Land of Proteas (1992-2013)

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India were the first country to visit South Africa, after their re-admission into international cricket post the apartheid era. The Proteas have been a force to reckon with in international cricket since then and have been a tough destination for touring teams in cricket’s longest format. India, in their past six outings, have failed to win a single series and have managed to win only two Test matches. Here’s a look at India’s Test history in the Rainbow Nation.


This was a historic series as India became the first country to visit the African nation after the end of the apartheid era. But the friendly relations between the two countries didn’t douse the competitive fire among the players as the series was an entertaining one. It started with a draw in the first Test at Durban as the fourth day was washed away due to rain. Omar Henry became the first non-white player to play for South Africa and was also the oldest ever Test debutant at the ripe age of 40. It was also the match when Sachin Tendulkar became the first player to be given out by the TV umpire. Pravin Amre, making his debut for India, went on to score a century, his painstakingly slow 103 coming off 299 deliveries. South African captain Kepler Wessels also scored a century in the match.

The second Test in Johannesburg also ended in a draw with South African all-rounder Brian McMillan stealing the show with a knock of 98 in the first innings and then going on to pick up four wickets with the ball. Sachin Tendulkar stamped his class on South African soil with a first innings century of high quality.

The result finally came in the third Test at Port Elizabeth as India were struck by ‘White Lightening’. Allan Donald’s pace was always going to be disconcerting for the Indians, but his ability to swing the ball gave sleepless nights to the Indian batsmen. Donald’s five-for restricting the Indians to 212 in the first innings. A young Hansie Cronje showcased his ability with the bat as he scored 135 invaluable runs to help the hosts take a first innings lead. Donald returned to pick up 7 wickets in the second innings. Kapil Dev hit a 180-ball 129 in his own inimitable style to give himself and the other bowlers something to bowl at. But Kepler Wessels scored an unbeaten 95 at the top of the order to take South Africa to their first victory on home soil after re-admission.

The fourth Test at Cape Town was drawn with the batsmen from both the teams cancelling each other out as South Africa registered a series win over the Indians.

India in South Africa, 1996-97: South Africa won the series 2-0

India visited South Africa four years later with the hosts having done wonders to their reputation as a force to reckon with in international cricket. India had just beaten the Proteas in a closely fought home series and Cronje’s men were looking for revenge. And that is what they did in the first Test at Durban as the world witnessed an abject capitulation of India’s batting.
Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to win the toss and field first seemed like a good decision on a seaming pitch as the duo of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad made life difficult for the South African batsmen. Prasad’s five-wicket haul could have restricted the hosts to a low total but opener Andrew Hudson stood firm to slam 80 as the Proteas managed to score 235. In response the Indians were blown away by that man, Allan Donald, again, as the visitors were bowled out for a paltry 100. Prasad was in his elements again and took another five-for to end with a 10-wicket match haul, but half-centuries from Hudson (52), Adam Bacher (55) and Brian McMillan (51*) propelled South Africa to a second innings total of 259. A chase was never on the cards but the way the Indian batsmen were decimated showed how Indian batting was still years behind when it came to facing quality pace attacks outside the sub-continent. India were bowled out for 66 with Donald picking up four wickets.

Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock ran through the Indian batting during the tour (AFP Photo)

The second Test at Cape Town saw the Proteas declare on a mammoth 529/7 with opener Gary Kirsten (103), Brian McMillan (103*) and Lance Klusener (102*) slamming tons. Sachin Tendulkar’s reputation as one of the game’s leading batsmen took a major hit in the first Test. But the ‘little master’ hit back with a stroke filled knock of 169. He was well-supported by Azharuddin, who scored 115. But Azhar’s run out triggered a collapse as the Indians were restricted to 359. The Proteas declared their second innings on 256/6 to hand the Indians an improbable chase of 427 runs. Donald and a young Shaun Pollock ensured the Indians were bowled out for 144 as the South Africans pocketed the series.

The third Test at Johannesburg saw India playing for pride and to avoid a whitewash. The decision to bat first worked for the visitors as Rahul Dravid announced himself on the world stage with his maiden Test ton. His knock of 148 was the bedrock of India’s first innings total of 410 runs. In response South Africa were bowled out for 321 with Javagal Srinath taking a five-wicket haul. India were solid in the second innings too with Dravid again leading with a knock of 81 and Sourav Ganguly, who had scored 73 in the first innings, followed that up with a knock of 60 as India declared on 266/8 to give themselves a good chance to win the match. India tried hard with Srinath, Prasad and Anil Kumble picking up crucial wickets. But an unbeaten century (122) by Daryl Cullinan denied India their maiden victory on South African soil as the Proteas held on for a draw.

India in South Africa, 2001: South Africa won the series 1-0

India visited South Africa in the new millennium under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly and this was a team that was looking to re-write history away from home. The first Test at Bloemfontain got off to an electric start as Sachin Tendulkar (155) and debutant Virender Sehwag’s (105) foiled the South African attack. Tendulkar showcased his class in difficult batting conditions and put together 220 runs with Sehwag after a top order collapse to guide India to a total of 379 runs. But the Proteas hit back in style with everyone in the top order getting among runs. Herschelle Gibbs (107) and Lance Klusener (108) slammed tons to power the hosts to a total of 563. Opener Shiv Sundar Das (62) was the only player to score a half-century as the Indians were bowled out for 237 with Shaun Pollock picking up 6 wickets to complete a 10-wicket match haul. South Africa chased down the small target of 54 runs to win the match by 9 wickets.

The second Test at Port Elizabeth was drawn but what occurred in that match had far reaching consequences. ICC match referee Mike Denness was in middle of a major controversy after he decided to hand Sachin Tendulkar a one-match ban for tampering with the seam of the ball. Other India players, including captain Sourav Ganguly, were penalised for ‘over-appealing’ and given suspended bans while Sehwag was banned for a Test. This led to a massive uproar in India and the BCCI demanded removal of the match referee from the final Test. ICC stood its ground and the eventual result was that the final Test of the series was stripped off its official status. The match was easily won by South Africa but the entire episode was in bad taste for players, administrators and fans.

Protesters in India demanding removal of ICC match referee Mike Denness (AFP Photo)

India in South Africa, 2006-2007: South Africa won the series 2-1

India next toured South Africa in late 2006 and this was a time when Indian cricket was at crossroads. It wasn’t the happiest of dressing rooms under coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid had a tough task on his hand, specially with former skipper Sourav Ganguly making his international comeback after being dropped from the team due to a spat with Chappell. The first Test at Johannesburg was over in just three days and it was the Indians who registered their maiden win in South Africa.

The tourists were bowled out for 249 with comeback man Sourav Ganguly top scoring with a hard fought 51, perhaps one of his best Test knocks. The mercurial Sreesanth produced one of his best international performances ever to pick up a five-wicket haul as the Proteas were bundled out for 84. India batted again and it was VVS Laxman’s (73) stroke-play that helped the visitors put up 236 on the board. South Africa needed to score 402 in the fourth innings to win the Test and although Ashwell Prince (97) did his best to keep the host in the hunt, India eventually won by 123 runs to register a landmark win.

South Africa needed to hit back in the second Test at Durban and it was Prince again who led the batting charts with a knock of 121 runs. Sreesanth continued to impress as he picked up four important wickets as India bowled the host out for 328. But it was the turn of the South African pacers to hit back. The trio of Mkhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and a young Morne Morkel didn’t allow any Indian batsman to settle down as the visitors were bowled out for 240. The Proteas declared their second innings on 265/8, to give India a challenging target of 354 runs to win the match and the series. Ntini’s five-wicket burst put paid to those hope as Dravid’s men were bowled out for 179 runs and the series was tied.

The decider at Cape Town was an exciting affair as Indian opener Wasim Jaffer stroked his way to a brilliant century. His knock of 116 was supplemented by Dinesh Karthik (63), Sachin Tendulkar (64) and Sourav Ganguly (66) as India posted a commanding 414 in the first innings. Anil Kumble’s four-wicket burst gave the visitors a slim advantage as they took a first innings lead. The Indians though had no answer to Dale Steyn’s (4/30) pace in the second innings and were bowled out for 169 with the hosts needing 211 to win the match and series after coming from behind. Protea captain Graeme Smith followed up his first innings 94 with a defining knock of 55, which blunted the Indian attack upfront. South Africa eventually won by 5 wickets to pocket the series.

India in South Africa, 2010-2011: Series drawn 1-1

By the time India visited South Africa next, this time under the leadership of MS Dhoni, they were already the top Test playing nation in the world and needed to guard that reputation. But the visitors were given a rude welcome at Centurion as Morne Morkel (5/20) and Dale Steyn (3/34) ran through the Indian batting to bowl them out for 136. In response the Proteas put up a mammoth 620/4 with a double century from the blade of Jacques Kallis (201*), while Hashim Amla (140) and AB de Villiers (129) helped themselves to centuries. Virender Sehwag (80) and Gautam Gambhir (63) put up a century stand and the old warhorse Sachin Tendulkar gave another reminder of his ageless class with an unbeaten 111. But these efforts couldn’t save India from an innings and 25-run loss.

The second Test at Durban started on similar lines with Dale Steyn ripping the heart out of India’s batting with a six-wicket haul as the visitors were bowled out for 205. Harbhajan Singh (4/10) spun a magic web around the South African batsmen as India hit back strong to bowl the Proteas out for 131. VVS Laxman’s rescue effort under pressure, which saw him miss out on a well deserved ton by 2 runs was the cornerstone of India’s second innings total of 228 all out. The Proteas needed 303 runs to win the match but the Indian pace duo of Zaheer Khan (3/57) and Sreesanth (3/45) didn’t give them a chance as India won by 87 runs to tie the series.

The final Test at Cape Town was all about two run machines from another generation putting up an exhibition of quality Test batting. Jacques Kallis slammed centuries in each innings of the match to give South Africa a glimmer of hope. But Sachin Tendulkar’s first innings 146, in what was his second last innings on South African soil, meant the match would end in a draw and India for the first time left South African shores without losing a Test series.

Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the applause after scoring a century at Cape Town in the 2010 tour (Getty Images)

India in South Africa, 2013: South Africa won the series 1-0

A bitter war between BCCI and Cricket South Africa led to a curtailed tour as India only played two Test matches. The visitors by now had developed a reputation of poor travellers, having lost almost everything outside the sub-continent. It was up to a new generation of players to try and change that. Virat Kohli, the new lynchpin of Indian batting, showcased his class in the first Test as he slammed a combative 119, in the face of quality seam bowling by Vernon Philander (4/61) and Morne Morkel (3/34). India were bowled out for 280 in the first innings.

Virat Kohli during his knock of 119 against South Africa (Getty Images)

Zaheer Khan (4/88) and Ishant Sharma (4/79) responded in style to scuttle the Proteas for 244 in the first innings as the visitors took a slender lead. A second innings century from Cheteshwar Pujara (153) and another quality knock from Virat Kohli (96) meant India put up 421 on the board and gave the South Africans an improbable target to chase. A century opening stand between Graeme Smith (76) and Alviro Petersen (44) gave hope to the hosts and while India were hoping to wrap up the match, two childhood friends, Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103), almost took the Proteas home. The match was eventually drawn with South Africa 8 runs short of the target with three wickets in hand.

The second Test at Durban saw the Indian top order putting up a good fight as Murali Vijay (97) and Cheteshwar Pujara (70) helped the tourists reach 334. South Africa’s response was huge as they put up 500 on the board, Jacques Kallis leading the way with a century in his last Test innings. India were bowled out for 223 in the second innings despite a high quality knock of 96 from Ajinkya Rahane. South Africa completed the formalities to win the match by 10 wickets and also won the series.