Plays of the day April 13, 2008

Corridor of uncertainty

Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth enjoy their time out in the middle © Getty Images

Sreesanth gets lucky
Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma introduced the first bit of cheek to a match that has seen a lot of pluck on the first two days. Edges, half hits, catches off no-balls, all added to South Africa's agony today in a 46-run last-wicket stand that could have decisively taken the match out of South Africa's reach. Nothing would have frustrated them more than the edge off Sreesanth in the fourth over of the day. It flew through the six-inch space between first and second slip, where both Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis thought it was the other's catch, before McKenzie dived as an afterthought. But by then the ball had already passed him for four crucial runs.

New ball, what new ball?
It took a whole innings before Mahendra Singh Dhoni came up with a trademark surprise move in his first Test as captain. The South African batsmen would have expected spin pretty early on in the innings. They wouldn't have been surprised had a spinner opened, but they wouldn't have expected a short leg and a silly point from the first ball of the innings. Harbhajan has opened an innings four times before, but this time he was bowling the first over. To the South Africans' credit, they handled him pretty well before he finally struck with Hashim Amla's wicket in his seventh over.

That's all right, but where are the runs?
Graeme Smith played a determined innings, cutting down any strokes that would fall prey to a ball that bounces unevenly. So much so, he seemed to have forgotten about scoring for a while. Smith swept Piyush Chawla from outside leg in the 25th over of the innings to score his first boundary. It was 67 balls coming, which has to be one of the longest waits for his first four. Smith's score then: 21.

Sehwag rolls over dangerously
For more than 16 overs, Smith and Kallis ensured that there was no damage, scoring 38 runs and making sure no wickets fell. Given their 60-run lead, India hadn't started feeling restless yet, but the third-wicket pairing were beginning to look comfortable. Dhoni then turned to Virender Sehwag. The first ball he bowled was a quick offbreak that kicked viciously and hurried Kallis into edging in onto his pad and then lobbing up for an easy catch for Wasim Jaffer. Sehwag was not done yet, he proceeded to bowl Smith round his legs off a fullish delivery, something he has a knack for doing.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo