On this day in 2013: South Africa nearly pull off a miraculous chase

India and South Africa drew an epic Test on this day, 10 years ago, as the South Africans fell just eight runs short of a record run chase and one of cricket’s most improbable victories. Facing a mammoth target of 458, South Africa finished on 450 for seven after putting themselves on course for a stunning win through a 205-run partnership between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who both made centuries.

India were in the rainbow nation for the two-Test series which was set to get underway in Centurion. Batting first, India managed 280 runs in the first innings, courtesy of a spectacular century from Virat Kohli (119). Vernon Philander playing in his 19th Test match became the fastest bowler to take 100 wickets for South Africa as he bagged four wickets.

In response South Africans were bundled out for 244 after Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma wreaked havoc in tandem, bagging 4 wickets each. Barring skipper Graeme Smith (68) and the hero with the ball in the first innings – Philander (59), no other batsman from South African’s lineup could withstand the might of the Indian pacers for too long. Having gained a crucial 36-run lead, India managed to post 421 in the second innings after a gritty ton from Cheteshwar Pujara (153) and near-century from Virat Kohli (96).

A monumental effort

Given a target of 458 on a tricky Wanderers pitch, South Africa reached as close as needing eight runs of breaking the world record for a chase in Test cricket. Described as one among the closest draws in history, the fourth innings total of 450 made by South Africa is the second-highest by a team in a drawn match and third overall. At the start of the fifth day, South Africa needed 320 with eight wickets in hand, and a draw was their more realistic goal.

However, centuries from Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103) guided them a lot closer than one could have imagined. Through their 205-run stand, the duo took their team to South Africa within 56 runs of victory. However, in another turn of momentum, India clawed their way back as they dismissed both the players.

By the time both were dismissed, South Africa needed 16 runs from the last two overs of the day but left with only Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel to follow, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn clung on for the draw and played safe by blocking the last couple of overs in the day. South Africa’s total would have been the most successful chase ever had they got to 458.