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Markram’s Newlands heroics not enough as India tie series in shortest Test on record

Markram’s Newlands heroics not enough as India tie series in shortest Test on record
India captain Rohit Sharma and South Africa captain Dean Elgar with the shared series trophy on day two of the second Test between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on 4 January 2024. (Photo: Shaun Roy / Gallo Images)

India beat South Africa by seven wickets before tea on day two at Newlands to clinch a series-tying victory despite a magical century by Aiden Markram.

India beat South Africa by seven wickets in an extraordinary Test match at Newlands to tie the two-match series 1-1 on Wednesday.

This is the 25th Test match that has ended within two days, but this bizarre fixture was the shortest in the history of Test cricket by balls bowled. 

The match ended in 107 overs (642 balls) bowled in total across the four innings.

The previous shortest Test match in history took place in 1932 between South Africa and Australia in Melbourne when South Africa were bowled out for 36 in 23.2 overs in the first innings – the exact number of overs and balls it took for India to bowl out the Proteas for 55 on day one on Wednesday.

india south africa newlands

South Africa and India shared the Freedom series 1-1 after India won the second Test at Newlands by seven wickets inside two days. South Africa won the first Test at Centurion by an innings and 32 runs. (Photo: Shaun Roy / Gallo Images)

The conditions for batting were difficult across the one-and-a-half days of play at Newlands. While seam movement on the wicket was predominant, the exaggerated bounce bothered both sets of batters.

“It’s a sad state when you need to rely on luck more than skill to win a Test match,” Proteas head coach Shukri Conrad said after the Test. 

“It wasn’t great – both the cricket and the wicket.”

The Proteas’ 55 all out in the first innings was their lowest in Test cricket since that clash in 1932.

Despite the batting collapses from both teams, Proteas’ opener Aiden Markram was a level above the other batters on day two.

With the Proteas starting the day on 62 for three, the maverick batter, resuming on 36, played an innings for the ages, hitting an improbable century.

markram india south africa

Proteas opener Aiden Markram scored a sensational century (106) in the second innings against India at Newlands. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

His 106 off 103 balls was the only score of more than 50 in the match, with Virat Kohli’s 46 in India’s first innings the next-highest score.

The next highest score in the South African innings was 12 from Dean Elgar. It was the first time in history a batter scored a century in which no other teammate scored 20 in the match.

It was Markram’s seventh Test ton and by far his most impressive, considering the conditions.

He took 68 balls to reach his half-century and needed only 31 more balls to reach three figures.

Another collapse

While Markram was setting the example of how to bat on the pitch at the start of day two, David Bedingham and Kyle Verreynne threw their wickets away in the first 30 minutes of the day, with South Africa still in a 13-run deficit.

Markram left well outside off stump, defended astutely and punished the sporadic bad balls. It was an inning filled with smart shot selection and a straight bat needed on a pitch that extracted extra bounce.

Bedingham and Verreynne, on the other hand, both played with hard hands at balls that weren’t there to hit.

india bumrah

Jasprit Bumrah of India celebrates taking 6-61 in the second innings against South Africa at Newlands. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

In the first over of the day, Bedingham, playing in his second Test match, attempted to club a swinging Jasprit Bumrah delivery on a good length through the covers before being caught behind by KL Rahul.

Four overs later, Verreynne attempted to pull a ball from Bumrah that was just back of a good length but only managed to scoop it to Mohammed Siraj at mid-on.

Verreynne’s dismissal, characterised by poor shot selection, has been the story of his series. The wicketkeeper-batter has scored just 28 runs in the three innings he batted.

Markram stood tall in the face of the carnage, also losing Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj along the way. The elegant strokemaker found a companion in Kagiso Rabada to face the fury.

The pair put on 51 runs for the eighth wicket, Rabada contributing only two runs.

With the field spread and the only option left to hit it over the boundary ropes, Markram skied a Siraj delivery. His rearguard knock contained 17 fours and two sixes.

South Africa ended on 176 all out in 37 overs, an improvement on the 23.2 overs faced in the first innings.

india proteas kohli

Virat Kohli of India celebrates victory on day two of the second Test between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on 4 January 2024. (Photo: Shaun Roy / Gallo Images)

Bumrah was the chief destroyer with the ball for India in the second innings, claiming six scalps. Bumrah and player-of-the-match Siraj shared 15 wickets in the Test.

Finishing the job

India needed 79 to clinch the match and tie the series and came out playing as positively as possible to knock the runs off.

It took exactly 12 overs for the away side to reach the target, but not without a few small scares – Rabada, Jansen and Nandre Burger each picking up a top-order scalp before Shreyas Iyer lofted Jansen over mid-on to complete the win.

The match signalled the end of India’s eight-match, multi-format series in the country, with the guests winning four matches, South Africa three and one T20I rained out. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The bookmakers must have made a killing

  • Dave Buerger Buerger says:

    Both the Indian and SA captains sang the praises of test cricket before this match and then this? I have never seen a more dismal batting display than this by our batsmen. I think that they should have forfeited their match fees as they cannot expect to be paid for such a display.
    Having said that I believe also that the Newlands groundsman who prepared such a pitch must be fired – what on earth was he thinking? Overall this was a disgrace.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    Test cricket is already at danger. Now this. I think pitch preparation is the real issue here, aggravated by batsmen displaying bad habits brought on by too much T20 cricket.

  • Mukesh Kesa says:

    Well done Markram on his century ; whilst others faded.
    Really a sad day for cricket that the match ended after just 2 days.
    Why can’t the pitch be tested beforehand for variable bounce?

  • jjbdinsa says:

    In 1932 an over was 8 balls so 23 overs and 2 balls is 186 legal balls bowled. The number of balls per over since the late 1950’s / early 60’s ( I have not checked exact date with Dr Google) was reduced to 6 per over over so SA at Newlands faced fewer legal balls ie 140 in scoring 19 more runs. Does this mean that the 1932 team still holds the record — fewer runs, more balls??

  • Mbulelo Journey says:

    The “new” generation of batsmen needs some time on the pitch in test matches. Nowhere near good enough to be honest (and now we lose Elgar as well), in their defense they play a lot of T20/1 day games and much fewer tests. Going from the limited local 4-day series to facing a quality attack with the likes of Bumrah is a huge leap. Maybe we can send our teams to countries where local 4/5 day games make money, like we do in rugby with the URC to increase our player’s exposure.
    On the positive side, great to see a new aggressive left arm seamer in the team taking wickets, adds to a very well rounded pace attack. When Nortje is fit, we’ll have possibly the best 5 man pace attack I’ve seen in recent times.

  • Mbulelo Journey says:

    Senior team management read the pitch completely wrong, we had 2 bowlers too many in the end! I can understand going in with 4 bowlers (cause I’ve never seen a team brave enough to back just 3 bowlers even in the most bowler-friendly conditions) but Maharaj definitely shouldn’t have been selected given the conditions. I think part of the reason we slumped to 55 all out is how badly wrong we had our game plan going into the match.

  • Modise M says:

    Fire the groundsman! This pitch was completely unacceptable for a 5-day Test match.

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