Nelson Mandela: The best 95 South Africa will ever see

Blog Opinion

Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela fell short of a precious century, but his historic 95 is the best innings the nation will ever see, writes Shahida Jacobs.

South Africa are up against world-class opponents – the great West Indies teams of the 80s or Australia's all-conquering side of the 90s if you like – and they are circling the drain with a lot of their supporters not giving them a hope in hell of pulling this one off. Their first innings didn't go too well and they are already in deep trouble in the second knock.

Out strides a young Nelson Mandela: a player who is full of enthusiasm, always positive and instead of going back into his crease, he likes to accept a challenge head-on by playing off the front foot.

His selection for South Africa has been met with outrage on the one side while others can't wait to see him bat. Those outside of South Africa's borders believe he deserves a crack at this level.

Out in the middle his team are in desperate need of something special, and this breathe of fresh air immediately makes an impression by batting like a veteran. When a bad ball is there to be hit, he punishes it and it makes the opposition slightly nervous. He continues to lose partners regularly and is forced to go into his shell. The boundaries have dried up and now it's just about survival. He gets past the half-century mark, but the last 27 runs have been the most difficult in his life. It was painstakingly slow and he could barely hear any cheers from the fans as he was in his own little bubble.

Things eventually ease up and he gets another spring in his step as he manages to get over that tricky period. The ball is now very soft and the spinners are not having much of an impact. It's almost like he is batting outside in the street now, the breathing is easy again. His team got out of jail here and it's about keeping his head now.

It's time for a brand new red ball – 1994, if you like – and the best fast bowler in the world is taking hold of the cherry. The opponents are cock-a-hoop again and the sledging gets more intense. He is greeted by chin music almost every ball and his team and country are quite scarred that he won't see off this difficult moment. Surely, he can't survive this and his team are now doomed to fail.

Instead of entering the verbal warfare, he continues to be graceful and elegant out in the middle, stroking many a ball that would trouble others to the boundary. The supporters start to rise again and it transforms a nation.

Despite the gloom mongers, he gets his team through it – not without a few risky shots or a dropped catch here and there – and everything settles down.

He enters the 90s and they said this is where the nerves usually start to show. But he is too classy to get nervous as his team are basically over the finish line. You fall just short of the most precious century ever, but that 95 will go down in history as the best 95 a nation has seen.

<b>Shahida Jacobs</b>

Latest