Jacques Rudolph became the fifth batsman in the history of Test cricket to score a double-century on debut against Bangladesh at Chittagong © Getty Images (File Photo)
Jacques Rudolph became the fifth batsman in the history of Test cricket to score a double-century on debut against Bangladesh at Chittagong © Getty Images (File Photo)

On April 26, 2003, Jacques Rudolph became the fifth batsman in the history of Test cricket to score a double-century on debut, after an eight-and-a-half-hour grind at Chittagong’s MA Aziz stadium. Karthik Parimal looks back at the knock that eventually broke a few records and resulted in South Africa winning by an innings and 60 runs.

This was South Africa’s first appearance on the international stage post their emotional exit from the 2003 World Cup in March. They travelled close to the heartland of Asia, their opponents being a frail Bangladeshi side, who weren’t yet competitive, even in the familiar confines of home.

The opening Test was a game of many firsts. Graeme Smith took over the mantle of captaincy from the adept Shaun Pollock and he was in charge of three debutants in the form of Alan Dawson, Charl Willoughby and one Jacques Rudolph. For the latter, it was third time lucky. On the first instance, he was picked to make his Test debut at Sydney in the Australian summer of 2001-02, but that didn’t materialise owing to South Africa’s racial quota system — Justin Ontong was roped in instead. Prior to that, against India, he played in what turned out to be an unofficial Test. As a reason, this fixture against Bangladesh at Chittagong was to be his first recognised outing.

A familiar tale

Impatience with respect to Bangladesh’s performances in the longer version of the game had been on the rise. It was imperative for them to make a mark, even if their opponents were slated in one of the most formidable brackets in the arena. It was a rebuilding phase for both teams. While South Africa had made a significant number of changes in their lineup, Bangladesh featured only one debutant in the form of wicketkeeper Mohammad Salim. Khaled Mahmud, the skipper, won the toss and elected to bat first.

Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar —the side’s senior representatives — played with renewed vigour and steered the total to a good-looking 78 for one by lunch. Just when one expected a change in pattern, what followed from Bangladesh was a clichéd response to a fall of wicket.

Bashar succumbed to Pollock at 138, and a collapse ensued, thanks to Paul Adams’ Chinamen resulting in a five-wicket haul. By the final session, they could muster a below-par 173. Out walked South Africa’s established openers in Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs for the reply. The duo, however, could not see out the first day, falling prey to Tapash Baisya and Mashrafe Mortaza respectively, which left Rudolph and Boeta Dippenaar guarding the timber by stumps.

Records begin to tumble

What followed on Day Two was torture directed at the Bangladeshi bowlers from the willows of Rudolph and Dippenaar. The two remained unbeaten throughout, scoring 280 runs at just over 3 an over before play was halted. While the latter scored 131, the debutant had amassed a sturdy 170. The knock was almost flawless, but for a stumping opportunity that went begging on 98.

Nevertheless, Rudolph’s off-side play received accolades, for his feet movement while driving through the cover region were apparently silken. His innings for most part was sedate too, but there was hardly any presence of hesitancy in unleashing the lofted shots either. This was evident as he stepped out to hit Enamul Haque for the first six of the innings in the 98th over.

Early next morning, on the third day, the intention to quicken the scoring rate was clear. Rudolph chased the wide deliveries and, uncharacteristically, took more risks than he did on the previous evening. Yet, not for a fleeting moment it appeared as though he’d fall victim to one of the Bangladeshi bowlers. He reached 200, thereby becoming the fifth debutant to reach the coveted landmark in Tests. The other four were Tip Foster of England, Lawrence Rowe of the West Indies, Brendon Kuruppu of Sri Lanka and Mathew Sinclair of New Zealand.

When Smith declared with the score at 470 for 2, Rudolph remained unconquered on 222 — after an eight-and-a-half-hour grind — and Dippenaar on 177. The third-wicket stand of 429 between them was the highest by a South African pair for any wicket. The southpaw also broke into the elite list of top 10 young players to score a double-century, falling short of Sir Don Bradman’s epic by 51 days.

In reply, except Bashar and Omar, who scored 75 and 71 respectively, the inexperienced Bangladeshi unit couldn’t offer resistance for long. They were bowled out for 237, conceding victory by an innings and 60 runs on the fourth morning. Yet again, it was Adams’s second five-wicket haul of the match that helped drill nail into the hosts’ coffin.

Rudolph was rightly adjudged the player-of-the-match and with that got rolling his Test career.

Brief Scores:

Bangladesh 173 (Habibul Bashar 60; Paul Adams 5 for 37) and 237 (Habibul Bashar 75, Javed Omar 71; Paul Adams 5 for 69) lost to South Africa 470 (Jacques Rudolph 222*, Boeta Dippenaar 177*; Tapash Baisya 1 for 70) by an innings and 60 runs.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal )