March 4, 2000

South Africa ready to move in for the kill

The Indian goose is as good as cooked and South Africa, wanting it well done, batted throughout the third day of the second Test at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Saturday. In scoring 472 for eight by stumps and obtaining a first innings lead of 314 runs, the visitors have certainly sharpened the nails. After all, that's all South Africa need to do now. Put the lid on the coffin and slam the nails home.

Resuming with a lead of almost a hundred, South Africa made steady progress. Daryll Cullinan showed his aggressive intent yesterday and today he continued in the same vein. After getting to his half century, Cullinan lost his wicket. The fall of Cullinan's wicket was completely against the grain of play. Just when things were looking good for the Gauteng batsman, he was undone by a Kumble delivery. As is becoming customary on tracks like these, the ball bobbled off the bat to the fielder standing close, Wasim Jaffer in this case. Cullinan's 53 included five boundaries and that unforgettable straight six off Kumble.

Lance Klusener, who has not looked at ease with the bat all tour came in next. Indian bowling 'attacks' have a habit of bringing struggling batsmen back to form. Today was no exception. Klusener got a good measure of the Indian bowling on a wicket that was slow and low. Though the ball was turning, it was along predictable lines and Klusener had no difficulty in picking his spots and scoring fluently.

At the other end, Kallis brought up his half century with a big six. Kallis has played the sheet anchor role to perfection on this tour.

Having waited all day for Klusener and Kallis to reach their centuries, and following that the South African declaration, spectators had more waiting to do. In tragic fashion, both Klusener and Kallis fell short of the mark.

Having done all the hard work, both batsmen fell to the spinners. Klusener was the first to go, driving a ball from Kartik straight to Tendulkar at mid off. In the end it was a soft dismissal, after what had been a fighting innings from a man who struggled with the bat in recent innings. Klusener's 97 came off 169 balls.

Kallis was easily the more solid of the pair that put on a 164 run partnership for the fifth wicket. However, his caution might just have deprived him of a Test century on Indian soil. Dabbing at a ball from Kumble, that perhaps did a little more than he expected, Kallis presented Jaffer with a simple catch under the helmet. Kallis fell just five runs short of his hundred.

After the two well set batsmen were dismissed, the wickets fell in quick succession. Having bowled long spells without reward, Kumble and Kartik finally got their names on the scoreboard for the right reasons. Having done the lion's share of the bowling, Kumble ended the day with figures of 67-15-136-5. Kartik was less successful and 49-10-123-2 would have hardly been the returns he hoped for.

An overnight declaration is inevitable. This will mean India have to score 314 to avoid innings defeat. With such a massive lead, it was surprising that the South Africans even batted as long as they did. However, one thing emerges strongly from this exercise: the Indians, with three spinners, on a spinning track, will have to produce a batting miracle to save this match. All is not well with Indian cricket.