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India v South Africa, 1st Test, Chennai, 3rd day

'The best Test match innings I've ever seen' - Arthur

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Chennai

March 28, 2008

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Mickey Arthur: "Dale [Steyn] is young, Morne Morkel is in his fourth Test, and [Paul] Harris has played only a few Tests. They've learnt some valuable lessons in how to play in the subcontinent today." © Getty Images
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Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, said he had not visualised the game taking such a course in his "wildest dreams", admitting that he had not seen a better Test innings than Virender Sehwag's 309 in Chennai.

"I thought if they want 400, it would probably be about lunch time or after tomorrow," he said at the end of a day when South Africa conceded 386 runs. "Last night I looked at every possible scenario that could develop and this wasn't one. I didn't think in my wildest dreams they would score at such a rate. Again that's only due to one man."

Arthur couldn't stop gushing about Sehwag's monumental effort, a triple-hundred struck at a quickfire rate. "I think that's the best Test-match innings I've ever seen," he said. "The way he played today was absolutely amazing. We tried to attack him, we defended against him, tried to bowl straight lines, bowl wide, over the wicket, round the wicket, did everything possible. And he countered us.

"When Veeru is batting he scores so quickly and in unconventional areas. The moment you changed the fielder he reverse-swept and hit over square leg. It was a fantastic innings and obviously put India in a very good position."

He didn't think there would be too much of a buzz in their hotel rooms tonight - "I think at seven o clock the boys will all be sleeping" - but he did mention the crumbs of comfort his side could take from this shellacking.

"I'm battling to think of any positives at the moment but what I do think is a couple of our younger bowlers learnt a lot about bowling in the subcontinent," he said. "Dale is young, Morne Morkel is in his fourth Test, and Harris has played only a few Tests. They've learnt some valuable lessons in how to play in the subcontinent today.

"I know we've got the attack to take 20 wickets in a Test. I think it [the pitch] was really flat and the conditions pretty stifling. We played on wickets like this in Pakistan. They were flat in Bangladesh. But obviously you take into account the quality of batters you bowl at. I still maintain that we have the attack to take 20 wickets. I think we were beaten by a champion player today."

Did he think there was only one team that could win this match from now or did South Africa have any chance? "There's a lot of cricket to be played," he said. "But the way it's looking we're obviously looking to get as much of a lead as possible and try and have a go on day five. They're probably in a really good position now and it's up to us to counter that early. I do think that if we get Veeru out early, we have a good chance of keeping that run-rate in check and making it a lot longer for them to get ahead of us."

Harris didn't make any sort of impression today but Arthur hoped he could come into his own in the second innings. "I don't think it turned much, we didn't expect it to turn much on the first three days and I think it's going to be difficult. Harbhajan and Kumble didn't turn it too. We tried to use Harris in a restrictive role. For him to go over the wicket, round the wicket ... but it didn't happen. But that was the plan. A spinner comes into his own on day four and five."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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