March 22, 2000

South Africa smother India in CCC opener

Very few matches go down to the last ball of the second innings. Some matches stay alive till very close to the death. And some matches are decided very early on in the first innings. The opening match of the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah between India and South Africa certainly fits in the last category.

On winning the toss, the newly appointed Indian captain Sourav Ganguly elected to bat first. From then on it was all downhill for the Indians. The batting which took the South Africans to task in the five One-Dayers played in India seemed a thing of the past as the Indians were skittled out for 164.

Even the 164 they did manage to scrape up seemed unlikely when they were looking down the barrel at 123/9. Only a spirited 30 from number eleven Javagal Srinath in the company of the cool and composed Ajay Jadeja (43 not out) saved India from total humiliation.

Starting badly, Sachin Tendulkar was foxed by a ball from Shaun Pollock that came in off the wicket and crashed into the stumps. Ganguly looked good to start off, playing the ball well through the off side in characteristic fashion. He too did not last long, clipping a ball off the bowling of Kallis straight to Boje inside the circle.

After the two openers were accounted for, the South Africans gave no quarter, picking wickets at regular intervals. No batsman got stuck in, and understandably, no serious partnership evolved. The fact that the best partnership of the Indian innings was 62 for the last wicket speaks of the complete failure of the Indian batsmen.

Makhaya Ntini and Steve Elworthy with three wickets each were the wreckers in chief for the South Africans. Bowling a good line concentrating on one side of the wicket, the South Africans knocked the stuffing out of the Indians.

When they came on to bowl, the Indians had no answer to the solidity of the South African pair. While Herschelle Gibbs blasted away at one end, Gary Kirsten sealed up the other, and with it India's chances. Gibbs confidence grew with every boundary struck and proportionately, the Indian shoulders drooped.

Ganguly tried all his bowlers, chopping and changing, to no avail. Gibbs was unstoppable as he used his feet to the spinners and sent the ball sailing over the stands. Kirsten nudged and tapped his way to fifty, but not before Gibbs got there.

The overs rolled by and there was no stopping the South Africans. When the 29th over came by, Gibbs was unbeaten on 87 and Kirsten had helped himself to 67 and taken the South Africans through to a convincing 10 wicket victory.

The toss up for the man of the match award between Steve Elworthy and Makhaya Ntini went to Elworthy for his returns of 10-3-17-3.

India play Pakistan tomorrow. They have to pull up their socks in a hurry if they want to be competitive in what is a home away from home for Pakistan.