The Mandela Test: Durban 1950

Australia at one stage were tottering at 4/95 in their second innings, while chasing a target of 336. But Neil Harvey, the usually flamboyant, but that day a picture of patience and doggedness, partnered with two lower order batsmen to take the Ozzies to a memorable victory by 5 wickets, with only half-an hour to spare. Harvey scored an unbeaten 151, but the Test is not remembered for his heroics.

Eric Rowan opened for the Proteas, and in tandem with Dudley Nourse ,who scored a fifty himself, threatened to run away with the match. He scored a majestic 143, and although South Africa posted a healthy 311, yet at 2/242, they would have hoped for a lot more. Today, Rowan’s innings lies forgotten in the annals of the game.

The great right arm off-breaker Hugh Tayfield, in his first season, took 7/23, and his partner, the slow left arm orthodox Tufty Mann took 3 for 31 to send the Aussies packing for 75 in their first innings. But who talks about this spin show now?

Ian Johnson with his right arm off-breaks took 5 and Bill Johnston with his slow left-armers captured 4 to send the Saffers packing for 99 in their second innings, thereby limiting the South African lead to 335, and thereby making a match of it. But the Jo-Jo spin heroics now stand as mere footnotes, rather survive only as match records without much sheen.

Dudely Nourse and Linday Hasseett captained the two sides. But these facts are unimportant. That Australia took the rubber by winning this test is also not the reason why this test is mentioned. The Durban Test Match of January 1950 assumed a life of its own, four decades after it was played. Nelson Mandela recalled this test match and his glee at the local team’s defeat during a meeting with Sunil Gavaskar and some journalists on the occasion of South Africa’s return to international cricket in 1991.

Mandela remembered how the non-Whites were allowed to watch cricket only from thorny enclosures, and how they used to support all visiting teams, and sing and dance whenever the local White Supremacists lost. It is not just the numbers that matter in sports. Sometimes the context, the occasion and the attendees lend meaning, and credence, to the proceedings, far more than the issues of mere runs and wickets being settled in the middle.

Bradman’s last innings’ duck is lamented more often than his 29 hundreds are celebrated. Gavaskar’s 36 not out in 60 overs have assumed legendary status, more so than any of his 34 test centuries. Klusener’s goof-up is his abiding memory rather than the two fours that preceded that run-out in the World Cup 1999 semi-final. That Nelson Mandela sang and danced in a veritable cage while watching his national team go down to the Kangaroos accords the Durban Test of 1950 a hallowed status. Over much more trivial incidents have films and documentaries been made, and epics written.

The test scorecard-

#durbantest1950 #mandela #nelsonmandela #kingsmead #neilharvey #dudleynourse #hughtayfield

#australiavssouthafrica #tests #icc #cab #csa

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