Rest of South Africa v Indians, Potchefstroom, 1st day December 7, 2006

Harbhajan positive after fightback

Harbhajan Singh believes it is only a matter of time until India's top order starts scoring again © Getty Images
On a day when Sourav Ganguly and Irfan Pathan saved Indian blushes, it was Harbhajan Singh - whose cavalier 47 in the final session exasperated the bowlers - that came to address the media. The official line was that both men were too exhausted, though it didn't stop them jogging around the park with their team-mates as the evening shadows lengthened across Sedgars Park.

Harbhajan sounded bullish after contributing his bit to a determined fightback. "We can take a lot of confidence from today's batting performance," he said. "When you make 300 runs in a day, it's a big positive. One of our goals coming into this game was to make 300 runs in a day. That has been achieved. Now we need to do well with the ball as well. The way Sourav [Ganguly] and Irfan [Pathan] batted was very heartening."

He refused to point the finger at any of his top-order mates, whose slipshod batting against the pace of Morne Morkel had India reeling at 69 for 5 at lunch. "I feel it's always just a matter of one innings," he said. "All these batsmen have been successful in the past, and there's no reason why they can't score again. I think once they make runs in one innings, they will start contributing regularly.

"If we play to our potential in the Test matches, the seamers and spinners as well as the batsmen, we can do a good job against South Africa. I'm looking forward to bowling here. I don't know if it will help the spinners, but it will be good to get a long bowl before the first Test, should I play in that match."

One person who won't be playing any part at the Wanderers next week is Morkel, but surely the day's not far off when he'll get his first national cap. He had figures of 4 for 29 before lunch, finishing the day with 4 for 74. Had Vaughn van Jaarsveld not spilled Ganguly in the gully, and Jacques Rudolph not dropped Zaheer Khan late in the day, the figures would have been even more impressive.

When asked about the experience, Morkel called it a privilege to bowl to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar. "They were my heroes growing up," he said. "I was lucky enough to be able to play against them today, and to get them out was very special. I can go home now and sleep well tonight, knowing that I have gone a good job."

Allan Donald had written recently that he considers the 22-year-old Morkel South Africa's next potential fast bowler, and there were definitely shades of the man they called White Lightning as he scythed through the top order using pace and bounce as his primary weapons. "I had my own little plans for them," he added. "I had an idea what lengths to bowl to them. I wanted to hit the deck hard and get it to climb. I could've had a five-for but unfortunately, a couple of catches did not stick."

On a day where he did very little wrong, the Indians will be grateful for those small mercies.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo