A Match For The Ages: Hero Cup Semifinals vs South Africa
Although India was not a formidable ODI outfit in the 1990's, every now and then, the team used to feature in a scintillating contest which got etched in the memories of the fans. One such match was the semi-finals of the Hero Cup against South Africa. Before going into the details of the match, let us know more about the tournament.
Hero Cup was organized to celebrate the diamond jubilee year of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) in 1993. Initially, it was planned to be a six nations tournament, but with Pakistan pulling out, only 5 teams participated – India, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka & Zimbabwe.
The format of the tournament involved each team playing against other once in the league stage, with the top 4 teams qualifying for the semi-finals. India qualified for the semi-finals by coming 3rd in the league stage. They won their matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa and tied the match with Zimbabwe. India, West Indies, South Africa, and Sri Lanka qualified for the next round at the end of the league stage.
India was drawn to play South Africa in the semi-finals. It would be safe to say that the confidence of the Indian camp would have been high going into this match, as they had comfortably defeated the Proteas in the league stage. Also the fact that that the semis were being held at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, which had been a happy hunting ground for the Indians would have helped the confidence of the Indian supporters.
The Indian captain, Mohammed Azharuddin won the toss and elected to bat first. India started the innings on a very poor note losing the first 3 wickets with only 18 runs on board. The fourth wicket fell on the score of 53, with Sachin being dismissed for 15. Thanks to Azhar and Amre who kept the scoreboard ticking, India looked at reaching a decent total, with Azhar, playing a captain’s knock scored 90 and Praveen Amre scoring 48.
India ended the innings with 195 runs on the board. Only Azhar, Amre and Sachin managed to reach double figures. Rest all were out in the single digits. Of the 10 wickets that fell, 4 were run outs. The remaining six wickets were shared between Fannie De Villiers & Richard Snell with 3 a piece. De Villiers was at his miserly best with bowling figures of 10 O- 1M – 19R – 3 W at an economy of 1.90.
195 was a respectable score considering the fact that this had been a low scoring tournament, with teams scoring over 250 runs only twice.
The Proteas lost their first wicket at 10 with Keppler Wessels being out for 5. But small contributions from Cronje (13), Cullinan (10), Rhodes (16), Richardson (15) along with Andrew Hudson (62) and Bryan McMillan (48*) saw the South Africans slowly but steadily creeping towards the target of 196.
With the final over to go, South Africa needed only 6 runs to win. With McMillan still on the crease, it looked like an easy task. But one person had different plans – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, who was chosen to bowl the last over after much deliberation.
That last over from Tendulkar got etched in the minds of Indian fans forever. The over spanned as follows:
First Ball – McMillan takes a single. De Villiers is run out attempting a second run
Second Ball – Donald at the crease. Dot ball
Third Ball – Dot Ball
Fourth Ball – Dot Ball
Fifth Ball – Single by Donald
Sixth Ball – Single by McMillan
South Africa ended their innings at 193, 3 runs short of their target of 196. India had defeated the Proteas for the second time in the tournament and advanced to the finals (A final which they won against West Indies). Mohammed Azharuddin was awarded the Man of the Match for his 90.
The match can be labeled as one of India's greatest ODI matches, where the Indians never gave up hope of emerging victorious from a tough situation. The team fought until the last ball was bowled.
The match had everything that a fan can dream of - good batting performance (Azhar, Amre, Hudson, McMillan), great bowling performance (De Villiers, Snell, Kumble, Jadeja) and a nail-biting finish (the disappointment of Sachin’s performance with the bat, was nullified with his performance with the ball).