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South Africa v India

‘I was in my tracksuit’ – The six-minute delay that almost saw Sourav Ganguly become the first ‘timed-out’ Test cricketer

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

There are 10 modes of dismissal in cricket, the rarest of which is ‘timed out’, which has never occurred in over 140 years of Test cricket. However, had it not been for South Africa’s generosity, Sourav Ganguly would have become its first victim during a bizarre six-minute delay in the 2007 South Africa-India Cape Town Test.

Ganguly suddenly found himself rushing against the timer during the second innings in Cape Town, with the game precariously set up on day four. India lost both their openers by the second ball of the second over, but usual No.4 Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t enter the field, owing the time he had spent off the pitch during South Africa’s innings on day three.

When India lost Wasim Jaffer, their second wicket, at 10.43am, the fourth umpire (Murray Brown) reminded India that Tendulkar wasn’t allowed to enter before 10.48am. What resulted was chaos within the dressing room, as the side scampered to get their next batter ready. Aware of the regulations, on-field umpire Daryl Harper had even asked TV umpire, Marias Erasmus, to send the Indian dressing room a reminder after the fall of the first wicket, but clearly, the message got lost somewhere. No reminder was sent before the innings.


“We don’t remind players each morning that they can be out lbw or caught or bowled,” Harper later said. “Players must be responsible for knowing the conditions.”

Based on their batting order, VVS Laxman was the slated next man in, but he is said to have been still in the shower then, adding to the drama. After him came former skipper Ganguly, who was clearly unprepared for the awkward batting promotion, still in his tracksuit when the passing bat(on) fell in his lap.

According to Law 31 (Timed Out), the next batter is required to be “ready to receive the next ball within three minutes of the fall of the previous wicket”. As the South Africa team, led by Graeme Smith, waited for an India player to come out of the dressing room, the timer crossed the mandatory three-minute window and went further beyond. In the meantime, Harper explained the “exceptional circumstances” of the incident, and the hosts decided not to appeal. CSA media official Roger Templeton later confirmed that, in normal circumstances, Ganguly would have been declared out, if South africa had appealed.

When Ganguly finally came out to bat, unrushed as always, the local time read 10.49am. Despite the awkward beginning, Ganguly soon bedded in, He ended as the second-highest run-scorer for India in the innings though, scoring 46 off 89, before he was dismissed in rather conventional fashion, gifting a catch to gully. Incidentally, Ganguly’s average at his accidental spot of No.4 (66.00 from 15 Tests) is the highest among all the positions he’s batted in in Tests.

Despite claiming a first-innings lead of 41, India slumped to a five-wicket defeat, with the Proteas chasing down 211.

So far, six batters have been dismissed ‘timed out’ in first-class cricket. If South Africa had decided to appeal anyway, Ganguly could have become the answer to a simple trivia question.

You can watch the incident here:


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