India v South Africa|
John Polack - 15 May 1999
After having been on the back foot for much of the match, South Africa's cricketers have scored a gripping four wicket win over India with sixteen balls to spare in the teams' opening Group A World Cup fixture at Hove this afternoon. Displaying all of the ruthless efficiency and discipline which so often serve as the defining characteristics of their approach to the game, they overcame a slow start with both bat and ball to record a memorable win.
At the core of their performance were the remarkable batting talents of man of the match, Jacques Kallis. Kallis (96), who received grand support from a succession of partners through the middle and closing stages of the innings, was right in his element today and added more fuel to burgeoning speculation across the cricketing world that he is rapidly assuming a mantle as one of the world's foremost batsmen. His strokeplay was technically sound throughout and, although he did not play many belligerent strokes, he never lost sight of the need to keep the scoreboard moving. Three shots played in quick succession off Srinath in the middle of the innings - one a lashing cut to register his half century; another a scorching cover drive; and the third a delicate leg glance - stand out as the best strokes of his innings but, in truth, it was a top class exhibition throughout. Whilst his dismissal was a needless sacrifice (he was run out attempting a third run to third man), such was the quality of his effort that he could surely have been permitted one moment of madness. Responding after their team had slumped to a precarious 2/22 in the seventh over, Mark Boucher (34), Hansie Cronje (27) and Jonty Rhodes (40 not out off 31 balls at the finish) should also all be given credit for their fine contributions.
Earlier in the day, India's batsmen had seemed to wrest a manifest initiative for their team with a consistently attractive display of strokemaking throughout the morning. Piloted by Saurav Ganguly's stylish 97, they compiled 5/253 by the end of their innings - a score which had looked more than satisfactory after they had been inserted by Cronje in seamer-friendly conditions. In front of a large and - at that stage highly appreciative Indian contingent in a packed crowd, Sachin Tendulkar (28) and Rahul Dravid (54) were also key figures in the performance, combining with Ganguly for 67 and 130 run stands respectively.
In short, this was an excellent match to start both teams' campaigns in this event. A contest that featured some magnificently controlled batting (and two superb individual innings); which ebbed and flowed almost as often as the lapping waters at the back of the ground; and which hung in the balance throughout the late afternoon, it was a fine showcase of all of the skills of the sport. In the end, India were beaten by a combination of Kallis's wonderful batting and their own inability to capitalise on excellent opening spells from Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad with the ball. A fumble by Anil Kumble at the bowler's end as he desperately attempted to run out Kallis in the thirty-ninth was perhaps the turning point of the contest. But nothing justified the moment of madness at the end of the game when a spectator ran on and attempted to attack Azharuddin. Letís hope that the standard of cricket set in this match is repeated during the World Cup, but the standard of crowd behaviour is not.