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India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day

'They didn't have a strategy' - Steyn

Jamie Alter in Ahmedabad

April 3, 2008

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Dale Steyn reckoned his delivery to Rahul Dravid was probably the best ball of the day © Getty Images
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While the entire Indian team may look back at the first session of this Test - during which they were bowled out for 76 - and cough up excuses, one man isn't surprised by their capitulation. Dale Steyn, whose 5 for 23 played a pivotal role in an astonishing 109 minutes of mayhem in Ahmedabad, felt they had no game plan whatsoever.

"That's the vibe they've given off to us. Once one or two wickets fall and things kind of go wrong, they are pretty weak and the batsmen to follow didn't look they knew what they wanted to do," he said. "They didn't have a strategy. They were bowled out for 76 and I guess that's what happens when you don't have a game-plan."

It's tough for any team to settle when Steyn is in a certain groove, hostile and mixing up deliveries, but this was something else. It took him just 48 deliveries to help send the home side packing and he credited the surface for some assistance.

"There was a little bit of movement which probably scared the Indians a bit once one or two wickets fell ... it just looked like it sent a couple of shivers down the Indian line-up," he said. "It looked like the guy that came in next didn't really know how to approach it and how to play the game. We're used to playing on wickets like this back in South Africa and knew what we had to do.

"When you get a wicket like this, if you don't bowl full you're not going to find the edge of the bat so you've got to make a decision as to exactly where you're going to bowl.

"Bowling short is one thing, taking the batsmen's feet away, but it's that follow-up ball that always gets you a wicket. I think from reading in the papers they [India] weren't going to come forward before the ball was bowled so maybe that helped us. Then we were able to bowl good-length balls. The ball hit the stumps a lot and there were a lot of inside-edges because nobody was really committed on the front foot."

Planned or not, it worked against a trigger-happy line-up, especially the follow-up balls. And it was Steyn's first wicket that vindicated much of South Africa's pre-game talk. Having just nearly dragged one onto his off stump via a cramped cut, Virender Sehwag attempted the same two deliveries later and succeeded - in dislodging the bails. "Sehwag tends to play skywards towards the slips or leave hit bat hanging out towards the slips so there's always the possibility of an inside-edge," he said. "His wicket was pretty decent as was that of [Rahul] Dravid. They are two good batsmen and that's two wickets you definitely want to be getting before the game."

The ball to dismiss Dravid was excellent, breaching a master technician's defence after he misread the movement. "That was probably the best ball of the day. Hopefully I can deliver a few more of those in the second innings."

Steyn, who now has three five-wicket hauls in the subcontinent, rated this the best and was quick to point out that had his second-last over not gone for 11 the figures would've been better. His tally, in his 22nd Test, reads 114 wickets with eight five-wicket hauls.

India hit back with four wickets after South Africa's openers took the lead but thanks to a fluent 106-run stand between Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, the visitors lead by 147. Steyn termed each run after wiping out the deficit as "gold" and was confident Kallis and de Villiers would come out on day two further South Africa's advantage. "We saw the ball moving around so we thought if we get through the day without losing any more. We needed two nice partnerships," he said. "On a pitch like this, especially against a team that just got bowled out for 76, you aim to get ahead of them and it hurts a lot.

"Maybe we can play with a bit of freedom tomorrow and up that lead to quite a big total. Then the pressure's all on them. They have to do something. You can't go into the last Test match losing this game. I don't think drawing the series at home it what India wants to do."

Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Jamie Alter Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.
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