Kingsmead, Durban – One of the most iconic grounds in the world has hosted some outstanding matches since its inception. The upcoming South Africa versus England clash is also expected to be a fantastic Test match as both teams would be going for a win after losing their respective previous Test series. But apart from that, Durban also holds a memory which might have faded away from the minds of many and not even was in the memory of the most.
The Timeless Tests, which it is also famously known as, was the epic encounter between the same two teams that is going to take the field tomorrow. The historic match was not played in recent times but during the early-period of March 1939. Compared to recent times, Test matches are given a period of 5 days to get the result but the Timeless Test lasted for a massive 10 days! The duration for the match was from 3rd to 14th March of that year and 2 days were provided in the Test as rest days for the players.
After playing a 10-day Test match, we would usually expect a strong concrete result which would make one team look a clear winner as we usually get it within 5 days itself but even that didn’t happen. Even after playing for ten concentrating, grueling, dragged cricket, the match ended in a draw by a mutual agreement. Continuous rain on the 10th day was one issue and the management were talking about taking it to the 11th day, but team England withdrew from that decision. The major reason behind that and the match ending in a draw was that team England had to catch a train, later that evening, which would lead them to their ship, thereby taking them back to England. They couldn’t miss both as transportation was not very frequent those days and therefore, the match had to be concluded on that rain-hit day itself, the 10-day match resulting in a draw.
South Africa won the toss and chose to bat in the 8-ball-an-over Test match. Their openers took their time to settle on the crease and score runs. Their batsmen’s mindset was that the longer they stay on the crease, the more runs they can score. After taking 202.6 overs, England managed to take down all 10 wickets of the opposition for the cost of 530 runs. South Africa took almost 3 playing days apart from the 1st rest day in between to get to that score. English batsmen were far quicker in their approach. On one hand, they continued to score runs off poor balls but kept losing their wickets at regular intervals, on the other. England could put up just 316 runs on the scoreboard before Protea bowlers bowled them out. Their reign on the batting front ended within early first half of Day 5.
The South Africans then took over and continued their 214-lead. Their previous mindset of dragging their stay on the crease was replaced by a new, more effective one for the second innings. The Proteas batsmen started to hit the bowlers all around the park and tried to rush through to the highest score they can possibly achieve. With middle-order batsman Melville getting a century (103) and both the openers getting out just before getting a century, South Africa raised a mammoth total of 481 runs. They achieved this target within the 5th and 6th day of play and that explains their furious hitting when compared to their stay at the crease during their first innings. With a target of 696 runs in sight, England went all guns blazing.
A double-century, two centuries, two half-centuries should summarize one part of England’s batting. Their second innings display was a far more superior and dominant display of cricket when compared to their first innings and South Africa’s batting performance on the whole. All batsmen played to their best of abilities and strengthened their partnerships as and when they formed during the game. At the end of 218.2 overs, England were 654/5 with two new batsmen on the crease. They needed just 42 runs more to win the historic Test by rain had other plans. Heavy showers in continuous motion disrupted the 10th day’s play and finally ended the play there itself.
Talks regarding stretching the match to the 11th day could not put to effect as Team England had to move back to their hometown which meant they had to leave on that same day. The match was titled towards England’s side a bit, but nothing could be said of what could have happened unless it has happened. Like we all know, cricket is a game of uncertainties and anything can happen!