On the 3rd of January, 2016, on the second day of one of the two first Test Matches for the calendar year, the crowd at Newlands in South Africa experienced a four-hour long “I was there” moment. These moments come along very rarely in Test Cricket. Personally, my time came on a dusty winter-ish day back in 2009 at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai, when Virender Sehwag looted the hapless Sri Lankan bowlers for 283 runs in less than three sessions on Day 2 of the Test that elevated India to the No. 1 ranking. He eventually fell for 293 on the next morning, but many present that day will remember how he didn’t bat for more than 12 balls without crossing or clearing the boundary. Murali Vijay had given him good company at the other end – the same way Johnny Bairstow, England’s on-off wicketkeeper in Tests, “supported” Ben Stokes during a 399-run partnership against the No. 1-ranked South African side on their own soil. Bairstow finished unbeaten at 150, while Stokes plundered 258 of the most violent, hard-hitting, clean and ruthless runs off a South African attack that seemed to have gone into sleep-mode, a familiar state, which they had last succumbed to in 2006 during Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s inhuman 624-run partnership in Sri Lanka.
South Africa are already 1-0 down in the series, and unless Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers pull off a miracle against the run of form, confidence and play, they are in grave danger of losing their second successive series as well as the No. 1 ranking – which is more of an inevitability though.