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India v South Africa, 1st Test, Chennai, 2nd day
Daryll Cullinan: India's approach against Harris will be crucial
March 27, 2008
South Africa have made a big total and India will need a couple of big hundreds to put pressure on South Africa
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Daryll Cullinan: "Hashim Amla looks to bat long periods and he has found a way that works for him" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former South African batsman Daryll Cullinan to look back on the second day's play of the first Test between India and South Africa in Chennai.

Daryll, you spoke yesterday about how the start would have exceeded South Africa's expectations - a total of 540 today; once again exceeding expectations?

Daryll Cullinan: I think so and I think it has ensured South Africa will not lose this Test and who knows, with a bit of luck, they in fact might end up winning this Test. But I have to say the wicket looks pretty good for batting. It is pretty flat but if one has to make a call I think it might be tough to get a result here.

AR: If yesterday was about McKenzie, today was about Hashim Amla's batting ... is this the best you have seen him play?

DC: He played superbly. He is a man of great patience and he understands his game and under these conditions that are good for batting - where the ball comes on slowly to the bat - he can get pace on the ball. He is a class act and he has once again proved that once he gets in, he is able to get big hundreds. I am very pleased for him. He was a hot tip for me before the series and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up as the best batsman on both sides.

AR: You've mentioned Amla is a big innings player. He showed no nerves as he reached his hundred - again a testimony to his temperament?

DC: He is quite a calm man and if you get to know Amla, he is not too fazed by the whole occasion or the opportunity to play Test cricket. He looks to bat long periods and he has found a way that works for him and I think it's fantastic. It was sad to see him get run out but if these are the sort of wickets that we are going to see in this series, then you can expect Amla to get in and play well.

AR: We spoke yesterday about a lifeless pitch and once again RP Singh was listless today, going for close to five runs an over. Was there anything the Indian bowlers could have done differently?

DC: Well, looking at the pitch, I think India were trying to utilise the new ball - trying to get it to swing and make early breakthroughs. If you look at the South African attack they also went at more than four runs an over. There is very little margin for error on this sort of pitch. There is nothing through the air and it has taken the sting out of any pace [that the bowlers may have]. You probably only have to bowl straight, use the crease, change your pace and bowl an incredibly tight line. Striving for that extra pace has shown that the ball just travels off the bat to the boundary even quicker. I think it's fair to say that it has been very tough for the quick bowlers.

AR: The fielding from India was very lackadaisical. Do you think seeing South Africa piling on the runs, their intensity just dropped?

DC: It can happen. The bowlers are the ones who set the tone and the fielders have to back them up. India are no stranger to this sort of fielding performance - they have always been a bit lackadaisical on the field. They probably realised that it was going to be a long haul for them and as long as they are taking their catches [it should be okay]. But the question is: can we ever expect a better fielding performance from India?

AR: The Indian batsmen have got off to a good start - What do you think their strategy needs to be and how crucial a role will Paul Harris play for South Africa?

One of the critical points of this series will be whether India will take on Harris and the effect that his bowling will have

DC: He [Harris] is critical to Graeme Smith's plans of tying an end up and just keeping a lid on the Indian batsmen. I anticipate the Indians will take the game to Harris after they size him up. I can't imagine that the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly will necessarily defend against Harris. That will be one of the critical points of this series: whether India will take on Harris and the effect that his bowling will have. If they can break his stranglehold then Smith will have to bring back his quick bowlers and that will mean that they will get flogged and will tire very quickly. He is critical to the whole balance and South Africa's strategy in trying to contain the Indian batsmen.

I think it is a question of patience for South Africa. They can't allow India too many boundaries. They have to keep chipping away and India need a big hundred or two from someone if they are going to put South Africa under pressure. I am anticipating, that at some stage, India will take the game to South Africa, once the ball gets a bit softer.

AR: Daryll, thank you for your views. We will hear from you again tomorrow.

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