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India v South Africa, 1st Test, Chennai, 4th day
Daryll Cullinan: India played into Ntini's hands
March 29, 2008
Makhaya Ntini was brilliant today and India will be disappointed that they couldn't push for more runs
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"Makhaya Ntini bowled very well today. He ran in hard and that is the Ntini South Africa need for a hope in this series" © AFP

Medini Mangala: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former batsman of South Africa Daryll Cullinan to look back on day four of the first Test between India and South Africa in Chennai.

South Africa will be very happy with their performance today with the bat and the ball. They batted aggressively in the final session, especially Graeme Smith. What do you reckon will be their game plan for tomorrow?

Daryll Cullinan: I think they will continue to bat, I mean it seems unlikely that there will be a result in this Test. My hunch that almost a 1000 runs have been scored may be correct and how much can a pitch deteriorate after a 1000 runs. They [South Africa] will look to be cautious but at the same time they will have to put up with the challenge of [Harbhajan] Singh and [Anil] Kumble. I think that will be India's assault in the morning. But nevertheless they have shown a good, fighting spirit. They came out a lot harder with the ball this morning - the new ball worked for them. So I am very pleased that they have raised their game and showed that they are quite a premium South African side.

MM: Especially Makhaya Ntini was extremely impressive today. He picked up Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar before they could get settled and Dravid just when he was looking up the scoring rate. He bowled a probing line outside the off stump, making the batsmen play forward. He really bowled his heart out today.

DC: That's the Ntini we know and that's the Ntini that South Africa need on this tour. When he is out of form, he needs to be running in. That was always his great strength - his ability to keep running in and bowling at you. That will be a huge encouragement [for Ntini].

If they can just get through tomorrow, see off this Test and then look to the second [game]. I think neither side will go home convinced of who is really going to win this series. It will be a psychological battle tomorrow. You don't want to give away too much.

MM: Daryll, just a quick word on [Rahul] Dravid's innings today. He played a completely contrasting innings to Sehwag - his strike rate was under 40. He also crossed a milestone for becoming only the sixth player in the world to cross 10,000 Test runs.

DC: I've always had the greatest respect for his game. When he came to South Africa, I had said then that he was the best player of Allan Donald we had seen in South Africa during that period. [He has] great concentration, great ability, desire and hunger for runs. It is a record he deserves in terms of his game - I have always been a great fan of his.

A contrasting innings, yes. But it also again just highlights what an amazing innings Sehwag played. I don't think it was by design that Dravid had a tough game but he still kept it together for India. I think they will be disappointed that they didn't push [for] runs. They seemed to be pretty careless today. These are all encouraging signs for South Africa - that if they can knock over the likes of Dravid and Tendulkar, who keep the innings together - there may be hope for them in the series.

MM: The Indian batsmen after Sehwag's dismissal, didn't look to up the ante - nine wickets for just 159 runs.

DC: That was probably because South Africa raised their game. [In that] match situation they [India] probably wanted to push on. They took the gamble of pushing on in a hard way.

It is an Indian side that is saying "We are going to play cricket to win. We are going to play attacking cricket and make a result from nothing." It just shows the confidence they have. South Africa may thrive on this in the remaining two Tests but they [India] could easily have just batted the whole day and had a bowl at some stage in the hope of a result. But here is an Indian side, almost in Australian fashion, pushing for a result. Trying to make something out of nothing and that is good for cricket. It is encouraging.

MM: Was Paul Harris a disappointment because you had said how important he would be?

DC: I think he will look back on this Test as a great learning curve. He did arrive in India saying he was looking forward to the Indian top order. Well, he found out now what it is like to bowl to them and that too on an unresponsive pitch. He has never been a great turner of the ball - those that believe he turns the ball will be disappointed. He relies more on the accuracy and over-the-wicket tactic.

There may be better pitches for him to bowl on and South Africa will hope so. Then they can rely on his assets but it was always going to be tough for him. The Indian batsmen are certainly not going to be looking to defend him.

MM: Lastly Daryll, you have said Kumble and Harbhajan will be the key for India tomorrow but just a word on India's [seam] bowlers today with the new ball. The ball was swinging a lot but Sreesanth and RP Singh just couldn't control the swing.

DC: I don't believe that the South African top order under any conditions were bothered about facing those two. I don't think they have the action or the real pace to put anybody under the pressure. I think they would welcome the Indian opening attack to be honest. They would much prefer facing them [Sreesanth and RP] than Kumble and Harbhajan.

The South African quicks were also under pressure. Ntini changed it a little bit around today and India played into his hands.

I'm disappointed that we have seen a pitch so unresponsive. We need more pitches helping the bowlers. Unless South Africa really show poor concentration tomorrow or play some silly cricket, only then will India realistically win here. I believe it is going to be a draw. Let us hope we can get pitches that are better for the bowlers. You cannot have the batsmen dominating so much.

MM: Thank you for your comments Daryll. We'll hear from you again tomorrow. Goodbye!

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