India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 1st day February 14, 2010

Kirsten praises bowlers for resilience

S Aga

Just what is it with the Eden Gardens and dramatic collapses? Nearly a decade ago, in the match that few in this part of the world will ever forget, Australia were in complete command at tea on the opening day. Matthew Hayden had biffed his way to 97 in typically muscular fashion and the scoreboard showed 193 for 1. Four balls after the interval, he went to hit Harbhajan Singh against the turn and found Hemang Badani at deep midwicket. Six more wickets fell in the final session, with Harbhajan taking a hat-trick, as Australia closed on 291 for 8.

On the final day of the same game, Waugh's side plummeted from a relatively secure 161 for 3 at tea to 212 all out. That collapse changed the course of an enthralling series, but what we witnessed in 25 overs after tea today was an even more drastic reversal of fortune.

Alviro Petersen's debut innings had ended shortly before tea, but there'd have been few alarms in the dressing room with the score a rudely healthy 228 for 2. But two indiscreet shots, from the two men who were the foundation of the victory in Nagpur, and everything changed. Hashim Amla misjudged a pull off Zaheer Khan, and Jacques Kallis top-edged a slog-sweep off Harbhajan that VVS Laxman took brilliantly over his shoulder while running towards fine leg.

"When you looked at it at tea, we were in trouble," said Gary Kirsten, India's coach. "Let's be honest about that. All credit to the bowlers for turning it around. They showed tremendous resilience. They have bowled pretty well this series without the rewards. When you're picking four bowlers every Test, it's an enormous workload on them. We've got to give them credit for the way they run in Test after Test. This is our fourth on the trot."

Perhaps the key passage of play had come just before the tea break, when Ishant Sharma gave a glimpse of what he can do when the rhythm is right. He went wicketless in a four-over spell that cost 12 runs, but Amla, who had eased to a hundred with few alarms, suddenly appeared troubled. Zaheer, who replaced Ishant, continued the good work, putting together an outstanding spell either side of the interval - 6-3-11-2.

"We've felt that he's just on the edge of doing some good stuff again," said Kirsten of Ishant's spell. "We know that he's an exceptionally talented bowler and he's just coming back to some really nice form. He bowled a nice aggressive spell. He wanted to get his pace up closer to the 140s where he wants to be. He was letting the ball go beautifully today. It was a very important spell because more than getting wickets, it set the tone for what we wanted to achieve after tea."

Suddenly, the same attack that had looked largely innocuous for the first two sessions found its bite. More importantly, chances were grabbed, and the stumps hit to catch the dangerous AB de Villiers out of his ground. "If you're not getting wickets because the ball's doing a bit, you've got to build pressure," said Kirsten. "And there's no better way of building pressure than getting a few wickets.

"It happened to us in the first Test. We were going nicely with the bat, we lost a wicket and pressure was created. We did that in this game. We mustn't always be looking for assistance to get wickets. When you can create pressure by doing some creative things on the field, which I thought we did today, batsmen play very differently."

For two sessions, with both spinners seemingly incapable of bowling a maiden, the decision to go in with two slow bowlers and leave Sreesanth out had looked decidedly dubious. Amit Mishra was unlucky with a couple of leg-before shouts, and Harbhajan far from amused after Laxman dropped a straightforward chance at slip when Amla had made just 60. But there were too many four balls, and too little pressure, especially with a debutant at the crease.

"We'd always like to have a third seamer, and two spinners," said Kirsten, explaining the omission of Sreesanth. "But the balance of our team doesn't work that way. We either have to opt for three seamers and one spinner or two and two. We felt that an extra spinner on this wicket is going to be important."

And after the criticism that Harbhajan Singh has received in recent times, Kirsten was understandably delighted with his efforts after tea, with both Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy quickly joining Kallis in the pavilion in a passage of play that utterly changed the complexion of the game. "I thought Harbhajan bowled really well in the last game, and I thought the South Africans played him very well," he said. "Even though he was in good rhythm, he needed to come up with ways to get wickets. I've been very confident that his rhythm has got better and better as the series has gone along. When the confidence is going and the rhythm's good, he's going to get wickets."

The [Dale] Steyn menace looms large on day two, but Kirsten was quietly confident that there was nothing in the conditions to worry his batsmen. "We didn't feel it took too much turn," he said. "We didn't feel that it offered that much assistance to the seamers. There's a long way to go in the Test, but it looks a fairly good wicket at the moment. There was a lot less grass on the wicket today than there was yesterday, otherwise we would have gone for three seamers."

There was little encouragement in the Nagpur pitch either, but Steyn still ended up with a 10-wicket haul. It's advantage India for the moment, but on a pitch where there's been enough bounce for those willing to hit the deck hard, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to discount South Africa. Back in 2001, India were dismissed for 171 after Waugh had stretched Australia's innings to 445 all out. If Monday sees that kind of drama, the roof might just come off a stadium that's already half rubble.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ilin on February 16, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    and facebook users lack of cricketing sense n knowledge shows by his statement that ishant toils africans by 140 kmph buddy,and learn cricket.

  • Ilin on February 16, 2010, 11:58 GMT

    facebook rattle SAF with his pace?joke of the century.hey facebook,listen whoever u r.i think u need to go to a cricket understandin school.for ur kinda info.i'd like to remind u that there are bowlers like mcgrath and jhonson who makes any batsman unluckiest.even in ipl or clt20 or any form of game.and for ur useless bowler ishant i give him an advice as well as u too,that since post australia sereies in 2008,what ishant has done?what are his highlights?on the other hand you can compare him with other bowlers like ZK,sreesanth or even nehra and praveen kumar.all are amongst wickets and good performances.growing hairs and wearin gold doesnt get u any wicket.wake up facebook and smell the coffee.(n 140kmph is pace?)lol

  • jeevan on February 15, 2010, 3:39 GMT

    i think the key is sehwag and how he handles dale steyn.In the first test ,to be frank,steyn was feeding on the pressure that was created by the hype which was more than enough to contain the great indian line up,though the balls which got out tendulkar and vijay were briliiant.but wat abt the rest of them???.it looked our batsmen were more tentative than anything its our turn now to put the pressure back on steyn and in the current batting line up only sehwag can do it, one feels.Paul harris is playing mind games on our bowling a consistent negative line all he says is,if u want to get some runs try to take a few risks,so its important that our batsmen be more positive and this is where the use of feet becomes more instrumental.and This is where the importance of gauti comes into play,being a naturally aggressive player against spin and being a left hander,he can make harris alter the short,i think we wil be ina strong position at the end of the second day

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2010, 2:20 GMT

    Its been a dramatic 25 overs post tea. But, hope men in blue negotiate Steyn & co atleast for 180 overs to pull the cards. Go India Go.

  • Lyndsay on February 15, 2010, 2:18 GMT

    Don't count chickens before they're hatched. If India had a full-strength batting line-up, particularly Dravid, I'd be much more confident, but in the first Test they were pretty much one out, all out. India has the better batsmen, but South Africa has by far the better bowlers. Hopefully in this Test, the world's number one batsman will win out over the number one bowler. Having said that - Go India!

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2010, 0:15 GMT

    Hopefully our long batting order will do justice to our bowling performance

  • Harsh on February 14, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    Few weeks ago there was an article about "india peek in to future" or something and i gave comment about it, but the whole article seems to have been removed so my comment never appeared. I hope it did. However, I will post what did i say at that time if India wins this test. Anyway, all I will say right now is, I smell GHOST of Kolkata. It looks like GHOST is not dead yet. Its knocking doors to SA dressing room, and knocking is getting harder and harder. Let's see if SA get out of there by saying hey there is no Boogyman, and show they can defeat the immortal or something doesn't exist. Or India proves that there is BLue Boogyman who steals lollipop and ice-cream in hot India. haha good one. Peace.

  • jagdish on February 14, 2010, 22:13 GMT

    Not the time for indians to celebrate. Intensify the pressure and Batters to perform. The key is pile up runs, hoping the wicket will crumble. A patient knock and two days

  • Supratik on February 14, 2010, 22:09 GMT

    This is what Test cricket is all about - Harbhajan bouncing in, his favourite stadium Eden Gardens packed to the rafters....tell me which IPL match or ODI match generates such sustained drama!! Shame on BCCI for not hosting a marquee test match here every year! This is clearly the Lords or MCG of India. Shows a lot about India's cricket culture too. In Mumbai, Chennai, B'lore and Kolkata Test matches are still held in very high regard and why BCCI doesn't stage Tests in at least one of these venues every year, and instead gives matches to wate-of-time centres like Nagpur and Mohali, I will never know...

  • Dummy4 on February 14, 2010, 21:41 GMT

    Hope india show some character in batting as well.waiting for sachin to hit century.on bowling its an overall good performance . india should look for other young bowlers. in so much of population india could nt find a star fast bowler like steyn or lee...its disappointing.

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