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The Greatest Cricket Test of all Time

24 December 2013, 11:51

Much has been said and written about the SA-India draw at the Wanderers, on 22 December. Count me amongst those who thought the SA batsmen choosing to block out the game, having been 3-down early on Day 5, was very clever, for various reasons.

Of course the ponytails in marketing, the same ponces who called 438 the greatest ODI of all time (forgetting that 438 barely lasted six months, as a record), and promptly made millions on DVD sales, must have been salivating at the prospect of South Africa winning "the greatest test match of all time".

Let's be realistic for a moment. The match was a draw. One in which the Number 1 team in the world, chose to play for the draw, against the Number 2 team in the world. Best test ever? Not a chance.

What follows is what I believe to have been the best test match ever. The second test in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Australia in India, Kolkata, March 2001.

At the time, Australia was all but invincible. World ODI champions, and packed to the gunwales, not with stars, but superstars. Hayden, Langer, two Waughs, McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Ponting. They were already 1-0 up in the series.

Waugh Snr won the toss at Eden Gardens, and chose to bat. Slater and Hayden put on 100 for the first wicket, it appeared to be regular service. In came Langer, who made a decent 50. Hayden fell for 97. Captain Steve Waugh made 110, Gillespie made a useful 40 from number 10, and Australia were bowled out for 445, at 3.4 per over.

In a fine bowling effort from the whole Australian team, and in fewer than 60 overs, India were dismissed for 171, a deficit of 274. Only VVS Laxman, at 6, passed 50.

Australia enforced the follow-on, nobody gave India a shot. A steady start saw them lose two wickets for 100, the openers gettings 30s. When Tendulkar fell with the score on 115, the ground fell silent. However. VVS Laxman had been sent up the order to 3. He would eventually depart for a team score of 608/5, having scored 281. He had been ably supported by Rahul "The Rock" Dravid, who made 180.

In the end, India declared at 657/7. It was shortly before lunch on Day 5. Australia required 380-odd, from 70-something overs. It was a no-brainer that it was not something they would chase. Hayden (67), Slater (43) and Langer (28) all made some runs, Australia looked as solid as ever, and a draw seemed inevitable.

But for Harbajhan Singh. He picked up six wickets for 73 in 30 overs. Waugh got 20-odd, but for the remaining Aussie batsmen, nobody scored more than 13. Australia were all out for 212, late on a spring afternoon in India. India had achieved the impossible. A win by 171 runs.

Five days, 1,400 runs, three hundreds, one of them a massive double, a six-for, a follow-on, and a victory by the team following on. I love the Proteas, but yesterday's match was dull by comparison to the events of March 2001.

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