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India v South Africa, 3rd Test, Kanpur, 1st day
Daryll Cullinan: 'A defining Test for Harris'
April 11, 2008
South Africa failed to capitalise on a good start on a pitch that will definitely yield a result
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Daryll Cullinan: "Paul Harris' bowling will be crucial - this could be the defining Test for him" © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former South Africa batsman Daryll Cullinan to look back at the action on day one of the third Test between India and South Africa in Kanpur.

Daryll, at 152-1 South Africa looked in a fairly comfortable position, but from then on they lost wickets at regular intervals. .. how would they asses their performance today, having won that crucial toss? Do you think this is the score they would settle for, seeing the way the pitch has behaved?

Daryll Cullinan: Looking at the way the pitch has played today I think the first innings will be critical, especially if you go by the reports which say that this pitch is dry and underprepared and will break up. South Africa would have understood the importance of batting well in the first innings and it would have really disappointed them, having been in a good position of 150-odd for 1, they didn't really capitalise on that and push on.

A big first-innings score for South Africa would have meant that it would have been really tough for India to have come back and beaten them. Just going through the South African team's scorecard, a lot of guys got starts but weren't able to take advantage of that. At the end of the day I don't think South Africa will be pleased with their score [of 265 all out] but they have got the runs on the board. I think we'll see how good or bad their first-innings score is after an hour of India's batting in their first innings.

AR: You had spoken about the need for India's opening bowlers to get the South African openers early, but once again South Africa managed a half-century opening stand? How did you view the performance of the Indian opening bowlers, particularly Ishant Sharma, who was returning after injury? Too many runs given early on?

DC: I was having a look at Graeme Smith's scorecard and I've seen that he has hit quite a few boundaries. That's where India have got it wrong - they bowled too straight at Smith and looked to attack him on his pads. But he is very strong in that area.

Neil McKenzie has driven well and between Smith and McKenzie there were 13 boundaries in their stand which tells you the Indian bowlers have not been that disciplined and have not shown the patience they needed to. But once the ball got little softer, things improved for the Indian bowlers with the spinners coming into their own. I think it's more wrong strategy than anything else that is not giving India the breakthrough with the new ball.

AR: A word on the Smith-Hashim Amla partnership, especially the way they handled the spinners?

DC: Amla showed some good class and good touch, especially the way he able to move the ball around. That was critical for South Africa along with Smith's form. I think the big wicket when the spinners came into play was that of Jacques Kallis. Then Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers were unable to build a big partnership. I think South Africa have gone a long way in proving to people that they can play well against spin. That's probably the biggest reason why they need to win this Test and win it convincingly - to finally put that whole idea to rest.

AR: The pitch has been the focus, right throughout this series ... what do you make of the one here at Kanpur from what you've seen so far?

DC: The first innings will be critical for both teams. It's a question of will the pitch crumble and make the pace bowlers tough to deal with in terms of the bounce becoming unpredictable. That's the big question that we will probably be able to answer only tomorrow around this time. It's clear it is going to be a result pitch. That's good for both sides and cricket, in terms of this series. This pitch will show who are the bowlers who can take advantage of it and secondly, it will give us an idea of who those players are who can battle it out on bad pitches and who can't. So judging by what we've seen I don't think that's too bad a score by South Africa today. That wouldn't have been the case had they been bowled out for 150-odd. This could just be the highest score of the match.

AR: What sort of lengths do you see the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel bowling, to get the maximum advantage from this pitch?

DC: They will probably look to bowl two lengths and extract as much of the uneven bounce as they can. Ishant Sharma has picked up three wickets and I think there will be some assistance for the quick bowlers - a bit of lateral movement or something from hitting the cracks. The question for South Africa will be how Paul Harris performs. Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh have all picked up wickets. South Africa have gone into this Test with just one specialist spinner so this could perhaps be a defining Test for Harris. If he doesn't fire, then it's really going to be down to South Africa's faster bowlers to see if they can get something out of this pitch and put the Indian batsmen under pressure.

AR: This pitch was predicted to be rank turner, yet India have gone in with just two specialist spinners, when they had another spinner [Ramesh Powar] in the ranks. What did you make of this strategy?

India need to be bold and attack and since they are batting second, they will have to ensure that they have a substantial lead if they want to win this Test in a big way, because who knows what the situation could be when they have to bat last

DC: I don't think they had too much of an option really. If they had picked a third I think their batting would have become a little light. I think two spinners are enough as you also have Yuvraj and Sehwag to roll their arm over. I think it was more a question of getting their balance right and I am sure they didn't want to find themselves light in terms of their batting options, particularly looking at the way South Africa bowled in the last Test.

AR: The Indian batsmen will be under pressure when they come out to bat tomorrow ... what do you think their strategy should be?

DC: I think they are going to attack. I can't see Sehwag playing any different to what he has been playing. Having Yuvraj in the side adds another exciting element - being a left-hander he can attack Harris as well. They have got to get the runs on the board - they need someone to bat through and get a big hundred. They need partnerships and I think they will take the game to Harris. They need to be bold and attack and since they are batting second, they will have to ensure that they have a substantial lead if they want to win this Test in a big way, because who knows what the situation could be when they have to bat last.

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

Comments: 10 
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Posted by surya on (April 12, 2008, 6:11 GMT)

It looks like at the moment India Playing watchful. Both Dravid and Laxman Sensibly Batting considering there is not much depth in the batting.we have to wait and see untill the play called off for the day.

Posted by jaosn on (April 12, 2008, 5:35 GMT)

I think the match is even at this stage because 265 isnt a devastating total regardless of the nature of the pitch.The Indians have world class batsmen who have faced tougher pitches and have still made large totals. It is important they don't give South Africa a lead going into the second innings this could be their main downfall. Dale steyn is a match winner but Indians need to see off his spells and they wont have much trouble keeping the runs flowing against other bowlers. Paul Harris is inexperienced and he will hope the pitch produces for him rather than use skill.On the other hand Kumble and Harbhajan will use their expertise and the pitch to full effect in the second innings.

Posted by Ish on (April 12, 2008, 4:31 GMT)

India will win this their spinners are world class.....South africa does not have a good spin attack after the retirement of nicky boje

Posted by Dhaval on (April 12, 2008, 4:02 GMT)

Yes, India will have to start aggressively with the help of Sehwag with his dashing ability of stroke playing. South africans are already scared from Sehwag's performance and if he is manage to get a big here then it will definitely impact on south africans second innings.

Posted by Andrew on (April 12, 2008, 0:47 GMT)

India have been found out by South Africa this series. If they don't get some sort of first innings lead they are gone. Win or lose I believe that South Africa will be the next No.1 in test cricket and they are almost there. There are several good fast bowlers who aren't playing in this series, so there is real depth there, as is the case with their batting. India have played well, but are still being found out by quality pace bowling. The development of players like Sharma and Sreesanth can only help their cause.

Posted by neeraj on (April 11, 2008, 23:49 GMT)

I hope we can pull it together during the batting, but I honestly don't think this lineup has that strength. Jaffer will be dismissed early; after watching in OZland, I don't feel that he can play the quicks that well, and Steyn will be a problem. I also worry that Sewhag will attack too early and get out. The upper-middle order (Laxman, Dravid, Ganguly) is going to have to win this one for us. Dravid, no matter what the condition of any pitch, can hunker down and stick it out (no guarantee, but if any1 can do it, it's him). Ganguly and Laxman have to make big scores, because I don't have much faith in Yuvi, after OZ tests. Dhoni is the trump card here; if he can stick out his natural game for 20+ overs, ticking in between 2-3 an over, we can reach 300+.

Posted by Ashok on (April 11, 2008, 20:14 GMT)

Very thoughtful summary and forecast. Indian batting with Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and Gangully need to play responsible cricket. Eliminate bad strokes. If they play to their potential backed up by Jaffer, Dhoni and Yuvraj there is good chance of India taking a good first innings lead. S.Africa has good pace attack and it is important that the Indian batsmen play the new ball cautiously. A good start with strong middle order batting is critical. If India take a substantial first innings lead, S.Africa will find it tough to counter the Indian spin trio. One mistake which India made is to include Sreesanth instead of Pathan. On this pitch Pathan's batting would have been a big advantage to India. All in all it looks like the game is well poised. On this pitch India should score over 400 runs and play at least 2 days. They have the batting to do it. A 200 run lead will be tough to overcome against the Indian spinners. It is a match for India to win through strong batting, bowling &fielding.

Posted by Dave on (April 11, 2008, 17:57 GMT)

I think we're in for a very interesting 2nd day. Sure SA were looking pretty solid at 152/1 but on this pitch, bowlers have a lot of assistance. Call me biased but I believe that SA will come out on top here!

Posted by Ram on (April 11, 2008, 17:06 GMT)

India today gave away too many runs in the first session which i think could prove costly to them later in the match . Its really important that Sehwag has to make a century here because all the other Indian batsmen are looking vulnerable except Ganguly. Dhoni should make his wicket count. India has to post a really good score above 400 and for that they have to bat two days , the side batting well will win the Kanpur test!

Posted by faisal on (April 11, 2008, 15:45 GMT)

India have committed the same blunder that Pakistan committed by preparing a track on which the ball will turn square from third day,already it has shown uneven bounce which will be to the advantage of Ntini and company. It's a shame that India after their fine performance in Australia will lose this series 2-0,showing once again that consistency is not the virtue which you would associate with the Indian team

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