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World Cup 1992: South Africa beat India to clinch semi-final berth

Thanks to heavy rain, the match was reduced to 30 overs a side, but that did not deter South Africa.

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With an 86-ball 84, Peter Kirsten ensured South Africa reached the semi-final of the first cricket World Cup they played © Getty Images
With an 86-ball 84, Peter Kirsten ensured South Africa reached the semi-final of the first cricket World Cup they played © Getty Images

March 15, 1992. South Africa, making their first World Cup cricket appearance, requiring to beat India at Adelaide Oval in the last league match for both sides, won comfortably thanks to an emphatic opening stand between Andrew Hudson and Peter Kirsten. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the first World Cup cricket between India and South Africa.

AFTER 23 YEARS IN THE CELLAR, IT’S BETTER THAN EVER. Thus ran a banner on the picturesque Adelaide Oval immediately after Hansie Cronje hit Manoj Prabhakar for four to put South Africa to the semi-final in Benson & Hedges World Cup cricket 1992. It was their first appearance in the cricket World Cup, and it had not been six months since their readmission to international cricket after two decades’ worth of exile.

With two wins (and a rain-washed match) from seven matches, India were ruled out of the tournament. A win at Adelaide Oval, on the other hand, would ensure South Africa a spot in the top four. India had nothing to play for but pride, and they did not exactly embarrass themselves on their final outing of the tournament. In other words, South Africa were charged up to go into the match; India, having played a full season in Australia (with 5 Tests and a triangular series), were probably more keen on returning home than anything else.

A run-a-ball target

Thanks to heavy rain, the match was reduced to 30 overs a side. India left out Subroto Banerjee and an injured Ajay Jadeja to bring in Vinod Kambli and Pravin Amre. When Kepler Wessels put India in, Sanjay Manjrekar walked out with Krishnamachari Srikkanth. While Srikkanth had opened in all eight matches India played in the tournament, Manjrekar was his fourth partner — after Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev, and Jadeja.

It did not take Allan Donald long to strike: Srikkanth smashed the fifth ball he faced to cover; it seemed to be racing to the fence when Peter Kirsten put his left arm out and came up with an astonishing catch. It was Srikkanth’s third duck in a tournament he ended with 117 runs from 8 innings and a highest score of 40.

Out walked Mohammad Azharuddin, and immediately took to the bowling. Manjrekar, not the swiftest of runners, got bogged down at the other end (writing for The Indian Express, Suresh Menon called him “correct but unproductive”), but Azhar kept going. Adrian Kuiper came along to bowl both Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar, and India looked all at sea at 103 for 3.

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Though Kambli and Amre were both waiting at the pavilion, Azhar promoted Kapil to five. Between them they put up 71 from 48 balls in the unlikeliest orchestra possible: while Azhar’s steely wrists caressed the ball to every part of the ground with nonchalant ease, Kapil clobbered the bowlers brutally. “The Indians were committed to an orgy of hitting,” Menon later wrote.

Kapil was eventually bowled by Donald for a violent 29-ball 42, while Azhar, going for the big slogs in the final over, fell for a 77-ball 79. India finished on 180 for 6 from 30 overs — a competitive score given the era.

Hudson and Kirsten come to party

Unlike Azhar and Kapil, Andrew Hudson and Peter Kirsten relied mostly on sharp singles and twos. Boundaries came square of the wicket whenever anything was pitched short, but the firm pushes down the ground off Kapil and Prabhakar kept the scoreboard ticking.

While Javagal Srinath went for 19 off his first two overs, it was Tendulkar who stemmed the flow of runs somewhat. Hudson had a close call when on 34: Tendulkar, bowling to Hudson, dived to pick up the ball and threw down the stumps at the striker’s end; though Hudson’s bat was in air (replays showed he was out), Khizer Hayat thought otherwise.

The pair added 128 before Hudson moved outside leg, tried to play Srinath inside-out, and was bowled. Kuiper hit a four; Azhar threw the ball to Kapil for the 26th over, but following a long conference he decided to bring Srinath on. Srinath hit Kuiper’s pads shortly afterwards (once again replays showed it was out), but the batsman was saved. Fortunately for India, Kuiper attempted a run off the ball, and Srinath ran him out. South Africa still needed 32.

Wessels held himself back and promoted the belligerent Jonty Rhodes. Kirsten lashed out and Kapil and was bowled, but Wessels walked out, taking the target to 24 from 18 balls. As Prabhakar came on to bowl, Rhodes hoicked him out of the ground, but was caught by Venkatapathy Raju in the same over.

Kapil bowled the penultimate over, but could not stop Wessels or Cronje from scoring runs. He sent down a full-toss that Wessels hit for four, leaving South Africa to score 4 from the final over. Cronje finished things off with a four off Prabhakar’s first ball. It was a perfectly paced chase: the openers scored 53 (Hudson) and 84 (Kirsten), while the next four men played their shots, managing 31 from 21 balls to secure the victory.

A side issue

While the points suggested South Africa were through to the semi-final, there was a catch: the constitutional reform was to be passed shortly afterwards, and Geoff Dakin, President of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, said that they would be “obliged to withdraw if the all-white referendum two days later rejected constitutional reform”.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and both Pakistan and West Indies insisted South Africa remained. The “decisive vote for reform” made the matter academic, and South Africa went through to the semi-final.

What followed?

– Kapil never played another World Cup match.

– South Africa crashed out of the World Cup following a defeat against England in the semi-final.

Brief scores:

India 180 for 6 in 30 overs (Mohammad Azharuddin 79, Kapil Dev 42) lost to South Africa 181 for 4 in 29.1 overs (Andrew Hudson 53, Peter Kirsten 84) by 6 wickets with 5 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Peter Kirsten.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

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