There are quite a few incidents of two or more great players making their debuts in the same period. We all remember Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis making their debut in the same match in Karachi in 1989 followed by certain Shane Warne, in Tendulkar’s first Australia tour.
Although only one player made his debut on 2nd February 2005 in Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein, there was another young player from his opponents who announced himself in that match. And both of them went on to become modern legends and they are two of the most loved cricketers all over the world.
England were touring South Africa for 5 tests and 7 One-Day Internationals. After winning the test series 2-1, the English players were quite upbeat. England squad led by Michael Vaughan were missing the service of key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff. South Africa despite being a strong team lost the test series and the first ODI. So they were already under pressure.
After the 2003 World cup, where both England and South Africa failed to make a mark, teams were going through the transition and quite a few new players were tested. For England, in the forefront was Kevin Pietersen, a swash-buckling batsman who was originally from Natal, South Africa. A wonderful young talent, Pietersen was already a flashy character, although no one would expect all the various controversies he had to face later, his talent was everyone to see. Although he appeared in test arena in 2005, he already made his ODI debut in Zimbabwe. Pietersen remained not out in three of his first 4 innings and played a steady unbeaten 22 in the first ODI to help England win by D/L method.
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For South Africa, the youngster who attracted everyone was Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. A livewire in the field, AB made his test debut during the test series and after a collective batting failure was drafted in the first eleven in the second ODI.
Sent to bat, England were in early trouble and Pietersen came to bat at 67 for 3. He took some time to settle down but once set he started to dominate the bowlers. Attractive pulls and sweeps were in display and once he passed his second ODI fifty he started acceleration. Andre Nel had to suffer as Pietersen muscled his way to his first ODI century, a brilliant effort which saw him finish with a 96-ball 108. He remained not out till the end to propel England to 270.
South Africa started the chase with Captain Smith paired with the debutant de Villiers. It was a steady start and both of them reached their twenties. But after the 10th over, while trying to up the ante, both of them perished within four balls. However Kallis and Gibbs built a good partnership and at 185 for 2 wickets in 38th Over, South Africa looked set to win. However, like many of their matches, South Africa started to mess it up suddenly. Both Kallis and Gibbs were gone by the 46th over. The target was still 34 runs. Even the big-hitter Kemp were also gone.
The final equation came down to 8 require of last 6 balls. Boucher was on strike with Pollock on the other end. A high full toss from Kabir Ali to Boucher resulted in a no-ball and boundary and gave the early advantage to South Africa who required an easy 3 of 5. But Boucher was caught next ball. A dot ball was followed by a single and the run out of new batsman Ashwell Prince.
With 2 of 2 required, Pollock somehow hit the 5th ball and scampered for one. The new batsman Andrew Hall was on strike on the last ball. Wicketkeeper Jones came close to the wicket. Ali bowled a full ball just outside off-stump, Hall missed it and in all the excitement just came out of his crease. Jones was alert enough to get the ball and flicked the bails to get a tie for England. The England team were ecstatic as it was a tie which looked unlikely even just a few overs back.
Both KP and ABDV went on to become legends of the game with some outstanding performances in next 10-12 years.