|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
March 27, 2008
A chanceless 159 from Hashim Amla, buttressed by vital contributions from Mark Boucher and AB de Villiers, was the springboard for South Africa to dominate the first two sessions of the second day, but India's openers then inflicted some punishment of their own on a dozy pitch where the bowlers were seldom more than peripheral players. By the time stumps were drawn, with four of the scheduled 90 overs still to be bowled, India had knocked off 82 in pursuit of an imposing South African total.
Amla's superb innings spanned 262 balls and ended only with a run out, but there was still time for Boucher, who made 70, and Morne Morkel, with a brisk 35, to flog sagging spirits before Harbhajan Singh returned to mop up the tail and finish with 5 for 164. The 100 minutes of batting that India faced had the potential to be tricky, but Sehwag's insouciance and Jaffer's elegance made light of the challenge posed by a three-man pace attack.
Sehwag started with a crisp cover-drive for four before rocking back to carve Makhaya Ntini over third man for six. A magnificent square drive off Dale Steyn and a couple of rasping cuts also roused the crowd, and Jaffer was quick to follow suit at the other end.
There was a gorgeous on-drive off Steyn, and an unexpected slap over third man for six as Ntini again dropped short. The first 10 overs produced 47 runs, and though Ntini and Morkel exerted more control in the final hour, Sehwag still found time to slash over point and drive languidly through the covers on his way to a half-century from just 59 balls.
The run glut helped India forget a wretched fielding display, with runs leaked in every conceivable fashion. After 19 had been conceded in the opening three overs, the new ball was taken. There was no immediate reward, though both Amla and de Villiers were extremely fortunate to see thick outside edges fall short of the slip cordon and speed to the rope at third man.
There was nothing fortuitous, however, about the three gorgeous cover-drives with which Amla, unbeaten on 85 overnight, reached his hundred. Sreesanth, as he had on the opening day, tried to do too much, and Amla cashed in with superb timing. He reached his century in 173 balls, and India's plight then got worse as de Villiers cut and pulled the insipid RP Singh for fours.
With such tripe being dished out, it was hard to see where a breakthrough would come from, but Anil Kumble kept faith in Sreesanth and was soon rewarded for it. After a couple of entirely unnecessary sledges in the direction of de Villiers, Sreesanth suddenly remembered that wickets are taken with the ball and not the mouth. A superb delivery just outside off stump induced the edge and Dhoni dived to his right to hold-on.
With the fast bowlers leaking runs, Kumble turned to the medium pace of Sourav Ganguly. The over-rate was abysmal and wasn't helped by a ball change and frequent consultations with the fielders, and Sreesanth's luck too ran out as Boucher edged one and then survived a huge leg-before shout courtesy the thinnest of inside edges.
By the time Kumble pressed himself into the attack with Harbhajan, South Africa had cruised past 400, and it only got worse on a real dog-day afternoon for the home side.
Amla's grip on proceedings was absolute, and with RP and Sreesanth providing comical examples of how not to stop the ball in the outfield, the scoreboard ticked along merrily. The ease with which the runs came was embarrassing and Kumble was reduced to bowling into the pads from round the wicket to try and limit the damage.
Sreesanth was brought back for another burst, but both batsmen continued to cut and nudge at will on a pitch that might as well have been a fluffy pillow. In such situations, the fielding side can only pray and any divine entreaties were answered with Amla being run out. Boucher played the ball into the vicinity of Sreesanth at cover and though he threw to the wrong end, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was alert enough to rifle the ball through to Kumble, who did the rest.
Amla, whose ancestors went to the Cape from Surat a few generations ago, left to a richly deserved standing ovation, but India's misery was far from over. Morkel was gifted a full toss by Sreesanth to get off the mark, and two confident off-drives further ruined RP's woeful afternoon. Boucher and Morkel stretched the partnership to 54 before Boucher's attempt to swipe Sehwag over midwicket ballooned off the top edge to Rahul Dravid behind the stumps.
Morkel then chipped a return catch to Harbhajan and it was left to Steyn to swell the total a little more with some hefty slogs, the pick of which was an impudent reverse-slog-sweep off Harbhajan. Harris, reprieved earlier after gloving one to slip, was caught behind, and Harbhajan then had Steyn caught in the deep to end the innings. By then though, India were playing catch-up.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Why the Indian opener would be well advised to shelve the hook and pull in Australia