From Sachin Tendulkar's last Test ton to Virat Kohli's masterclass: Relive Team India's top moments in South Africa

ByAmeya Barve, New Delhi
Dec 21, 2021 02:55 PM IST

As the much-awaited Test series in the rainbow nation gets closer, we take a look at top moments from India's previous tours of South Africa:

Recent captaincy controversy, tricky conditions, injuries, starting eleven and the patchy form of batters including skipper Virat Kohli -- the first major away assignment under Rahul Dravid might prove to be a challenging one for the Indian Test unit. Having not won a series on the South African terrain piles further misery. Overall, India have played 20 Test matches in South Africa, winning just three, and in their last trip in 2018, they lost the series 2-1. The teams who have so far defeated South Africa at home have just been Australia, England and Sri Lanka.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli(Getty)
Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli(Getty)

Seeking their first Test series win in South Africa, India will take on the Proteas in the series opener at the SuperSport Park in Centurion. Kohli and co have flagged off their practice sessions in South Africa. The three-match Test series will start from December 26 to 30, followed by the second match in Johannesburg from January 3 to 7, and conclude with the third and final Test in Cape Town from January 11 to 15.

As the much-awaited Test series in the rainbow nation gets closer, we take a look at top moments from India's previous tours of South Africa:

Sachin Tendulkar's milestone ton

In an illustrious career that spanned over two decades, Sachin Tendulkar scored runs for fun and his impressive batting records speak volumes about the Indian maestro's skillset. The only player to have 100 international tons to his name, Tendulkar notched up the penultimate Test ton of his career against South Africa in 2011. The batting icon reaching the three-figure mark at Centurion was special. With a single off Dale Steyn, Tendulkar became the first man to have 50 Test tons under his belt. He achieved the landmark on the fourth day of the Centurion Test.

Sachin Tendulkar after scoring record Test ton(Getty)
Sachin Tendulkar after scoring record Test ton(Getty)

Tendulkar's unbeaten 111 went in vain as the hosts beat India by an innings and 25 runs. The "Little Master" notched up another ton in the third and final Test of the series in Cape Town. It was his 51st Test century and also the last of his career.

Widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time, Tendulkar called it a day on November 16, 2013, at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. In a glorious 24-year stretch in international cricket, he scored 34,357 runs across formats and signed off as the leading run-scorer at the biggest stage. The Mumbaikar also became the first male player to smash a double hundred in One-day Internationals, scoring 200* off 147 balls against South Africa in February 2010.

He played six World Cups in Indian colours before lifting the title in his final appearance. India defeated Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 World Cup and Wankhede was rejoiced to finally see their homeboy with the most-awaited silverware.

Sreesanth's tussle with Andre Nel

It's no secret that Sreesanth liked to express himself, be it on or off the field. The pacer often caught the attention of the cameras with his heated exchange with opposition players. But his bout with South Africa's Andre Nel was a bit different.

Sreesanth giving it back to Nel after hitting a six(AFP)
Sreesanth giving it back to Nel after hitting a six(AFP)

On December 17, 2006, Sreesanth hit one straight over Nel's head for a maximum before twirling his bat in front of the pacer. It was in response to the previous delivery bowled by the South African -- a bouncer followed by a few words to charge Sreesanth up. The Kerala pacer's quirky dance caught everyone's attention including the commentary panel and the Indian dressing room.

A character of the field, Sreesanth plucked eight wickets in the Wanderers Test and set up India's 123-run victory. “I never saw him celebrate. When you’ve been hit for a six after giving a guy a lot of lip you have no choice but to put your tail between your legs and turn around. But it was great fun. I always looked for a fight on the field and loved it when someone would come back at me," Andre Nel had told Cricbuzz recalling the altercation.

Historic Durban win and Laxman's batting heroics

Overseas Test wins are always treasured by Indian fans, be it the recent series-clinching win in Brisbane or the maiden Test win on foreign soil back in 1968. India's second Test win in South Africa came in the 2010-11 series. The venue was Durban.

Being put to bat first, India were pushed on the backfoot by Dale Steyn, who claimed six for 50 to bundle out the visitors for just 205. VVS Laxman scored 38 while MS Dhoni chipped in with 35 to ensure that the touring party goes past the 200-run mark. A total that didn't look intimidating was camouflaged by the effort of Indian bowlers.

Zaheer Khan picked up three including the opposition skipper Graeme Smith, finishing with figures of 3/36 in 13 overs. While Zaheer cleaned up the top, Harbhajan removed the South African tail to finish with four wickets. The hosts could manage to put up just 131 on the board, handing India a healthy lead to start off the second innings.

VVS Laxman en route to his defiant knock in South Africa(Getty)
VVS Laxman en route to his defiant knock in South Africa(Getty)

But there was still a twist in the tale. India lost half of their side for just 93 in the second innings before Laxman decided to up the ante. He played a valiant 96-run knock, facing 171 deliveries and hitting 12 fours during his stay at the crease. Laxman found support in Zaheer, who added 27 to his name to help India reach 228.

With 303 to win, South Africa lost early wickets as India sniffed victory. Sreesanth removed Smith (37), Hashim Amla (17), and Jacques Kallis (17) before Zaheer and Harbhajan joined in. Harbhajan plucked the wicket of AB de Villiers and Zaheer then cleaned up the tail to wrap up the Durban invasion.

Indelible wins in Johannesburg

India won their first-ever Test on the South African turf in the 2006-07 tour under Rahul Dravid. Sreesanth returned with figures of 5 for 40 and 3 for 59, putting up an impressive spell of swing bowling. Sourav Ganguly top-scored for India with 51* in the first innings, Laxman also shone with a defiant 73 in the second. But it was Sreesanth who stood out with eight wickets and a hilarious moment with Andre Nel.

Virat Kohli and the Indian team celebrates Test victory in SA(Getty)
Virat Kohli and the Indian team celebrates Test victory in SA(Getty)

Fast forward to 2018 and Jasprit Bumrah & Mohammed Shami excelled with the ball, helping India record their third Test win in South Africa. Electing to bat first, India could gather only 187 despite the fifties from Virat Kohli (54) and Cheteshwar Pujara (50). Bhuvneshwar Kumar also flaunted his batting prowess to score 30 and make the total look respectful.

Bumrah then clicked with a fifer and Bhuvneshwar took three as the SA innings folded for just 194. While Bhuvneshwar got rid of Aiden Markram (2), Dean Elgar (4) and AB de Villiers (5), Bumrah stamped his mark in Test cricket with a maiden five-wicket haul. The Indians were restricted to 247 in the second innings, leaving the hosts with an achievable 241 to hunt.

Elgar remained unbeaten on 86 but it was the Mohammed Shami's show at the other end. He plucked the wickets of Vernon Philander (10), Andile Phehlukwayo (0) and Morne Morkel (0) to help India inch closer to the win. Lungi Ngidi (4) was Shami's final prey as he also completed his fifer, and India sealed an epochal Test win at the venue.

Virat Kohli emulating Tendulkar's feat

Virat Kohli during the 2017-18 tour in South Africa was exceptional, improving his record with the bat in the rainbow nation. The prolific batter scored his ninth 150-plus score as he notched up his 21st Test century in the second Test at the SuperSport Park, Centurion. 

He also became the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar to have two Test centuries on the South African turf. He also emulated Tendulkar's feat of an Asian captain scoring a ton in South Africa. Kohli celebrating his 150 runs was a sight to behold as the India captain kissed his wedding ring which was tied to a necklace.

Virat Kohli celebrates his 150 against South Africa(Getty)
Virat Kohli celebrates his 150 against South Africa(Getty)

The 33-year-old Kohli may have not scored a hundred since 2019, but his record in South Africa has been phenomenal. He has scored 558 runs at an average of 55.80 in 10 innings, which include two hundreds and as many half-centuries.

Kohli's maiden Test ton on the South African ton came way back in 2013. Dubbed as a rare talent on the top of his game, Kohli came in to bat at Tendulkar's No. 4 position and showed his class to the world. He notched up 119 at the Wanderers to get past his previous Test best, 116. The right-hander leapt in the air after reaching his ton in 140 deliveries, and the world already knew what the future has in store for Kohli.

Sourav Ganguly's return

India's beloved captain Sourav Ganguly top-scored with an unbeaten 51 in the Johannesburg Test and it was the Indians who won the series opener. It was perhaps one of the ex-India skipper's finest Test knocks, given the fact that he was making his international comeback after being dropped from the team due to a spat with then coach Greg Chappell.

The “Prince” in action against South Africa(Getty)
The “Prince” in action against South Africa(Getty)

The Rahul Dravid-led Test unit had a tough assignment to start off with. But the Indians wrapped up the Test in just three days to register their maiden win on South Africa soil. Facing a strong bowling attack comprising the likes of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Andre Nel, Ganguly breezed through it put up 51* on a seaming wicket, helping India notch up 249 in the first innings.

The left-handed batter's 51 was also the top score in the first innings of both the teams, with South Africa bundling out for just 84 by the India bowlers. "Dada" was back, much to the delight of fans who were waiting to see him donning the Indian jersey. In the second innings, he scored 25 while VVS Laxman headlined the innings with his defying knock of 73 runs. India put 236 on the board to give South Africa a target of 402 runs.

Ashwell Prince top-scored with 97 and Kallis (27), Mark Boucher (23), and Pollock (40) tried their best but the Proteas could manage just 278 on the scoreboard. India clinched their first Test on the South African turf by a margin of 123 runs. 

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