India v South Africa, 3rd Test, Kanpur, 1st day April 11, 2008

'Encouraging signs for our bowlers' - Amla

Hashim Amla: "No matter how long you stay at the crease, you are never in" © Getty Images

In the year leading up to this tour, South Africa have visited Bangladesh and Pakistan, but nothing would have quite prepared them for this Green Park track. "It was a lot more difficult to stay at the wicket, and there was a lot more turn than in any other wicket on the first day," Hashim Amla, who scored an important 51, said after South Africa posted a competitive total on a track that started crumbling in the first session. "No matter how long you stay at the crease, you are never in."

At the end of an exhilarating day's play, Amla, like everybody else, said he didn't know whether South Africa had achieved a par score. And understandably Amla doesn't know what to expect when they come in to bowl tomorrow. "Whether 265 is good enough or not depends on how well we bowl tomorrow, and how our bowlers respond to the pitch."

Amla was one of the few batsmen who looked comfortable while batting in the middle. In scoring 51, he negotiated the spinners well, playing them as late as possible, and also introducing a few savage shots to his more characteristic wristy flicks. "I don't think there was a conscious effort to score quickly," he said. "The outfield was quick and that helped too."

But once Amla got out to a beauty from Ishant Sharma, it kickstarted a collapse, as a result of which South Africa fell well short of what they would have expected after their confident start. The last nine wickets fell for 113 runs, which robbed them of an opportunity to put the match beyond India on this extremely tough pitch. "We lost too many wickets in the end," Amla said, "and we will have to pick some early wickets when the Indians come out to bat. There is turn in the wicket, but slow turn. We have a game at hand and we need to take early wickets."

South Africa's bowlers carry forward the psychological edge after what happened in Ahmedabad, and Amla indicated they could be a handful on this Green Park pitch. "There were some encouraging signs for our bowlers. The bounce was low and there were cracks and they will open up a lot more on the morrow. I think there will be more variations in bounce too."

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo