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December 1, 2004
At the press conference after the fourth day's play, John Wright said that the result of the Kolkata Test would now depend on how well India played. "It's up to us now," he said. "We have to win the first hour tomorrow. We're hungry to win the series."
Wright agreed that India had not scored quickly enough in the first session, in which they made only 52 runs and were bowled out in the last over before lunch. "But we knew that a 100-run lead would put a lot of pressure on the opposition," he said. "It was necessary that we got that lead. We felt that there was still enough time left in the game to exploit that, even if it took time gaining it."
Wright also admitted that South Africa's swift start off the blocks in India's second innings - the openers put on 77 before Andrew Hall was out in the 24th over - had India worried for a while. "But there is always a point in the game when the new ball begins to wear and then starts to turn. There was a magnificent over from Anil Kumble to Graeme Smith before tea, when he beat him repeatedly with sharp turn and bounce, and from then on the look of the game changed."
Wright did not think that a fourth-innings run-chase would trouble India, saying that the pitch was still playing well: "Any score is chaseable on this wicket."
The South Africans were not in much mood for conversation. Makhaya Ntini, the team's representative, gave deadpan responses to most questions, and achieved a rather droll effect:
"What is the team strategy for tomorrow?" he was asked.
"To bat on."
"Will the cause be lost if Jacques Kallis falls in the first hour of play tomorrow?"
"That's not going to happen."
"If you had a lead of 150 would you feel you would have a chance of pushing for a victory?"
"Depends on what time we get it."
"What is the least you would want to set India in the fourth innings?"
"Just 110? Even though India have Virender Sehwag?"
"We don't have any problem with Sehwag. Sehwag should have a problem with us."
Chandrahas Choudhury is a staff writer with Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.
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