Kemp makes its easy for South Africa
An astounding display of power hitting from Justin Kemp lit up Cape Town and utterly transformed what seemed like a disastrous day for South Africa into a glorious one as they thumped India by 106 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the series. Kemp blazed his way to an 89-ball unbeaten 100 - his first in ODIs - to lift South Africa from the depths of 76 for 6 to a daunting 274 for 7. Utterly demoralised by that battering - 113 came off the last ten, while the eighth-wicket stand between kemp and Andrew Hall yielded a record 138 - the Indians came up with a limp batting display, with only Mahendra Singh Dhoni (55) and Rahul Dravid (63) showing any fight.
At the 20-over stage, it seemed the only team which could wrap up a comprehensive win in this match was India, as they fought back superbly after the drubbing at Durban. Zaheer Khan struck twice in his first over - with Smith perhaps disturbed by the pre-match altercation with Haroon Lorgat, the convener of selectors - while the rest of the top-order batsmen self-destructed quite spectacularly on a pitch which, though offering pace and bounce to the bowlers, was excellent for batting.
Jacques Kallis, Loots Bosman and Herschelle Gibbs all fell to extravagant shots outside off, while Mark Boucher was run out. Zaheer bowled an outstanding first spell - his figures read 7-4-9-3 - while Anil Kumble, back in the one-day side after 13 months, sustained the pressure with his typically impeccable control, conceding just 12 from his first eight overs. With most of the recognised batsmen back in the hutch, there was little more India could have hoped for after losing the toss.
The South Africans, though, are well known for the depth in their batting, and Kemp, along with Shaun Pollock, slowly began the rescue mission. The pair added 60, which stabilised the innings and allowed Kemp to settle in before launching into that incredible onslaught. The Indians showed plenty of generosity in the field as well, offering Pollock and Kemp early chances - Dravid dropped a tough slip catch off Harbhajan Singh to reprieve Pollock, while Sachin Tendulkar quite shockingly missed a regulation caught-and-bowled when Kemp was on 9.
Kemp had 13 on the board after 40 deliveries, but that was only the proverbial lull before an onslaught of quite scary proportions. Hitting cleanly through the line of the ball with meaty power and immaculate timing, Kemp had the Indians scurrying for cover as the complexion of the game changed in a trice. Whether it was pace or spin, Kemp backed himself, simply making room and hitting through the line of the ball, which kept disappearing high over long-on and long-off.
Harbhajan felt the heat first, being tonked for a six and four off successive balls, before Kemp turned his attention to the faster bowlers. Irfan Pathan disappeared for two sixes and a four in an over - all blasted straight down the ground - while Zaheer took a fearful battering too, being clobbered for consecutive straight sixes. Kemp took most of the honours, but he received excellent support from Andrew Hall, who kept the momentum going with a quickfire 47-ball 56. The punch-drunk Indian bowlers threw in the towel - Pathan continually bowled length balls, while Zaheer's attempt at yorkers regularly threw up full tosses. Both were meat and drink for Kemp and Hall, who added an amazing 76 in the five overs between 43 and 47.
Battered into submission in the field, the Indians needed a powerful start to have any chance, but Shaun Pollock snuffed those hopes with an impeccable new-ball spell in which he nailed Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar and Mohammad Kaif - Sehwag, for the umpteenth time, skied a cut to third man, while Tendulkar and Kaif both fell playing the pull.
The only encouraging passage of play was when Dhoni joined Dravid and blasted four sixes on the way to an entertaining knock which briefly offered India a glimmer of hope. Enjoying the pace and bounce on the track, Dhoni clobbered Makhaya Ntini for six off the third ball he faced, and then continued in similar vein, adding 85 for the fifth wicket with Dravid at nearly a run a ball. Dhoni even had the pleasure of briefly giving Kemp a taste of his own medicine, carting him for a six to bring up his fifty, but when he fell soon after to a magnificent catch at the square-leg boundary, the match was as good as over. Dravid required treatment for dehydration and battled on to his 73rd ODI half-century, but he was only delaying the inevitable.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo