How to draw

At Wanderers, probably the greatest 'no result' game ever played

Before the start of every session, for five successive days, cricket pundits would tell you that the next hour would decide which of the two teams, South Africa or India, would avail that decisive edge in the first Test of this short series. They never got it right. Till the final minutes of play, no team could boast of being in front. At Wanderers, India and South Africa dug deep to leave no stone unturned in search of a thrilling win. But, eventually, both had to settle for an exciting draw.

With the year ending, the time generally earmarked for trend-spotting, the game's longest and oldest format came up with an opportune assertion. The Test at Johannesburg proved that cricket doesn't need bells and whistles to remain popular or presentable. The scoreboard doesn't do justice to the game that was modest on numbers. Teams scored at an average of three runs per over. Over five days, just three sixes were hit. Plus, no bowler finished with a five-wicket haul. But those glued to the game last week will tell you that this Test will be remembered for long stretches of play where wickets didn't fall and the runs were hard to score. On a lively and often unpredictable 22 yards, patience was the celebrated virtue. Big Bash, Australia's answer to the IPL and telecast around the same time as the Test in South Africa, wasn't even a temptation.

This was more true for Indian cricket fans. This drawn Test abroad dwarfed India's recent home wins. Skipper M.S. Dhoni made a brave call to bat first on the greenish pitch. Virat Kohli, at No. 4, ensured Tendulkar wasn't missed. Cheteshwar Pujara brought Dravid-like assurance to the crease. Zaheer Khan showed he wasn't returning just to get his 300th wicket. The mix was heady. Round 2 starts on Boxing Day. More of the same is expected. And Ravi Shastri is expected to say at the toss at Durban, "The first hour will be crucial".

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