Rest of South Africa v Indians, Benoni November 16, 2006

Steyn puts the skids under India

Cricinfo staff

Rest of South Africa 255 for 8 (Rudolph 72*, Morkel 57) beat Indians 218 (Dravid 79, Steyn 5-22) by 37 runs

Mohammad Kaif pulls over midwicket on his way to 30 © AFP
The Indians' tour of South Africa got off to an embarrassing start earlier this week when they were forced to set off without any official tour kit, and it hardly got any better when they lost their tour warm-up, going down to a Rest of South Africa side by 37 runs at Benoni.

While the loss only three days before the opening match of the five-ODI series was not the ideal start, the real concern was the manner of the defeat. Only a face-saving seventh-wicket stand of 82 from 105 balls between Rahul Dravid and Irfan Pathan saved India from humiliation as they slid to 82 for 6 in reply to the home side's 255 for 8.

The damage was done by Dale Steyn, a fast bowler who the Indians are likely to see much more of before the tour is out, who took 5 for 22. Although he is earmarked as a Test specialist, he bowled at up to 150kph and sent a clear message to the selectors. In his first spell he removed Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Jaffer - Jaffer only played in place of Virender Sehwag, who needed stitches in a hand after misjudging a catch in fielding practice shortly before the game.

In his second two-over spell Steyn dimissed MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina in three balls and his pace was too much for both. He softened up Dhoni with a short ball then trapped him leg-before with a fuller delivery before Raina could only fend a lifting delivery to short leg. In his final spell Steyn bowled Dravid, who was ninth man out after a solid 99-ball 79.

Steyn has played in only four one-day internationals and was dropped after the tour of Australia last season because he was too expensive. However, he conceded only 12 runs off the bat, with seven wides and three no-balls making up the rest of the runs against him.

Apart from Dravid's innings, there was encouragement for the Indians in the form of Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan on their returns to the one-day team. Both were easily the most impressive Indian bowlers. Zaheer, whose most recent one-day international was against Pakistan in February, took 3 for 44 in ten overs. Kumble, who has been out of one-day international cricket since playing for Asia against Africa in South Africa in August 2005, took 2 for 31.

Dale Steyn and friends celebrate the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar © AFP
He grabbed two wickets with successive balls as the Rest slipped to 116 for 6 in the 31st over before Jacques Rudolph (72*) and Albie Morkel (57) lashed 96 off 100 balls for the seventh wicket. Morkel skied a catch off Zaheer, but Rudolph carried on hitting out as another 43 runs were scored off the final 19 balls of the innings.

Morkel had been due to be 12th man for the Rest but got his chance to play when it was agreed before the match that both sides could use a dozen players, although only 11 could bat or be on the field at any time. The decision enabled the Indians to field an extra player to get match practice ahead of the ODI series. It meant that the match would not have official List A limited-overs status - and also enabled the home side to finish with a much better total than might have been the case.

The Indian bowlers took some heavy punishment in the closing overs with Munaf Patel conceding 36 runs off his last two overs and Sreesanth being hit for 44 off his final four. Steyn ensured that India were never in with a realistic chance of winning, even though Dravid and Pathan gave them a glimmer of hope.

"There are areas where we can get better," Dravid said afterwards. "We're a pretty young side. Some of the young batsmen and bowlers are learning. It's not an easy place to play cricket, especially if you come straight from India. It is just the start of the tour and there will be better performances as the tour goes on."

Ashwell Prince, who led the Rest of South Africa, was delighted. "We wanted to give them a tough game," he said. "They have found it tough touring here in the past and we wanted to make sure we didn't give them any freebies early in the tour."