Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former South African batsman Daryll Cullinan to look back on the first day's play of the first Test between India and South Africa in Chennai.
Daryll, a score of 304-4 at the end of the first day's play - is this the start that captain Graeme Smith would have wanted after winning the toss and electing to bat?
Daryll Cullinan: Well, I think it has definitely exceeded their [South Africa's] expectations. They will take this start; it has been a confident and steady one and the top order played nicely. They have put the fears of playing India in India and at a venue that has been good for them confidently behind them today. I think they will look back on it with a lot of delight and they have really given themselves the opportunity to push on tomorrow and try and get something closer to 400 or beyond.
Smith and McKenzie are coming off a record opening partnership in Bangladesh... what was impressive was the way they were positive right from the outset...
AR: It was an impressive batting performance from the South Africans, especially the openers. They played very positively, especially in the way they played the spinners: straight down the ground and with the full face of the bat.
DC: This side will attack. They are not going to lie down and allow India to dictate to them. If conditions are good for them they know that they have to capitalise. It looked like a fast-scoring outfield but the Indian opening bowlers bowled way too straight to Neil McKenzie and Smith. This allowed them to take the ball on the leg side and then the off side. South Africa won the battle against the Indian quicks - they were way too good for them. India will also be concerned that both RP Singh and Sreesanth went for over 4 an over.
South Africa have seen a lot of them [the Indian spinners] over the years; they know what Anil Kumble and does and doesn't do. Harbhajan Singh for my money, is not a patient sort of spinner. He tries to bowl a lot of different balls and varies his pace. South Africa have played the ball coming into them, recently, very well. It's the ball that spins away from them that they tend to battle with. Bangladesh posed big problems for them in the World Cup with their three left-arm spinners; they found it difficult to manoeuvre the ball through the off side. Batting conditions in the second innings could be tough for South Africa with the ball spinning, so South Africa will take the attack to the Indian spinners in their first innings and try and dominate them.
Scores in the 70s, 80s and 90s are not going to win you Tests. South Africa need guys to push onto the 160-180 mark and that is what puts [a total] of 500 on the board. They will have some mixed thoughts but nevertheless it was a confident start.
AR: A word on McKenzie, who got out on 94. He has been among the runs since his comeback and though there have been questions asked about his ability to play spin, he acquitted himself quite well today...
DC: This is something that the cricketing world has to get rid off; this throwaway line that South Africa battle against spin. It's nonsense as far as I am concerned. They are adept now at playing spin and I think we need to look at that closely. If it is turning and bouncing dramatically, no team is going to be on top of India in India.
I don't think that McKenzie is a bad player of spin, he is quite good. But I have to acknowledge that he surprised me and exceeded my expectations. There is no doubt that Test cricket stimulates him and he feels that that is where he needs play. I thought he got a good one from Harbhajan today that took the outside edge and carried to slip. But it has been a good start for him. My only word of caution is that these conditions can change very quickly: you can be 304-4 and be 360 all out. So there is plenty of work for South Africa to do.
AR: A quick word on Hashim Amla. We have known him to be a grafter but his 85 was quite aggressive, with 10 boundaries in it.
DC: I can tell you that Amla will score runs on this wicket. He is very wristy and the thing about him is that when he gets in he gets you big hundreds. He has got that mental ability and strength to really push on which I have always admired about him. I said before this Test started that he would be the pick of the batsmen on both sides and I am anticipating a very good tour for Amla.
|I can understand India going in with four bowlers; they have got the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly to chip in with a few overs. I think the lack of discipline and the lack of understanding of which areas to bowl at Smith and McKenzie is a greater concern to them. Gary Kirsten and his bowlers will have to relook at things again, particularly up front|
AR: We talk about the waning interest in Test cricket and this pitch has nothing in it at all... not a good advertisement for Test cricket was it?
DC: I think it is going to pick up though. Just listening to the locals talk about this pitch it can be batsmen friendly early on but it is the sort of pitch that can turn dramatically on you. I think South Africa will sleep lightly tonight. They have got to be aware of what's happening around them and take care in trying to work out this pitch. India have lost only one Test here in 22 years and if they restrict South Africa to anything under 400, they will feel that they have done well. If a few batsmen get in here, then India can themselves score in the region of 380-400 a day on this sort of a ground.
AR: India fielded two fast bowlers and two spinners. In this heat especially with RP not bowling well today, could this be a strategy that backfires on them?
DC: They are going to require the two spinners to do a lot of work; they think that is where the game will be won for them. I think what backfired on them was that they bowled too attackingly. They overestimated their ability with the new ball against Smith, McKenzie and Amla. They need to relook that. The two fast bowlers fling the ball but they are not going to scare anyone with their pace. It came onto the bat beautifully. I can understand India going in with four bowlers; they have got the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly to chip in with a few overs. I think the lack of discipline and the lack of understanding of which areas to bowl at Smith and McKenzie is a greater concern to them. Gary Kirsten and his bowlers will have to relook at things again, particularly up front.
AR: Daryll, thank you for your views, we will hear from you again tomorrow.