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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 9:43am
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CRICKET

South Africa and India draw epic first test

Home side falls just eight runs short of a record run chase at the Wanderers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 12:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 12:55am
 

India and South Africa drew an epic test on Sunday as the South Africans fell just eight runs short of a record run chase and one of cricket’s most improbable victories.

Facing a mammoth target of 458, South Africa finished on 450-7 after putting themselves on course for a stunning win through a 205-run partnership between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who both made centuries.

India clawed their way back in a gripping finale to remove both those players, and JP Duminy for just five. That left tailenders Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn clinging on for the draw – and ultimately playing it safe and turning down the chance of runs when so agonisingly close to making cricket history.

South Africa’s 450-7 was still the third-highest fourth-innings total ever in more than 2,000 games of test cricket, and would have been the highest successful chase ever if the top-ranked Proteas had got to 458.

Dale Steyn hit a six off the last ball of the match for a memorable finish to a game that India was expected to win with ease on the final day and ended up almost losing, then almost only just winning, and finally drawing.

No team has ever scored more than 418 to win a test. South Africa would not only have shattered that record with another eight runs but their total would have stood out as the second-highest ever fourth innings score irrespective of the result, with only England’s 654-5 in the famous timeless test of 1939, which was not limited to five days, ahead of it.

Du Plessis was almost South Africa’s saviour as he fought for over a day for his third test century to ensure, whatever happened, South Africa didn’t lose.

But India also showed huge resilience under wrenching pressure near the end to pull South Africa back from the brink of victory, with seamer Mohammed Shami outstanding with his 3-107 and his incredible controlled finish.

De Villiers was bowled for 103, Duminy was out cheaply and, crucially, Du Plessis was run out by a brilliant direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane with South Africa needing just 16 runs.

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