Rest of South Africa v Indians, Potchefstroom, 2nd day December 8, 2006

India edge ahead on bowlers' day

Stumps Indians 93 for 7 (Laxman 31, Thomas 5-32) and 316 for 7 decl. lead Rest of South Africa 138 (van Jaarsveld 52, Sreesanth 4-53, VRV Singh 3-35) by 271 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
How they were out

The Indian batsmen failed to compliment the efforts of the bowlers with another meltdown © AFP

The Indian batsmen suffered another collective meltdown that took the sheen off a superb bowling performance on the second day of the tour game against Rest of South Africa at Sedgars Park in Potchefstroom. Having bowled the opposition out for 138 to earn a 178-run lead, the Indians batted dreadfully in the final session, finishing the day on 93 for 7, with an overall lead of 271, though they still have the upper hand in the context of the game. Alfonso Thomas was the scourge this time, picking up 5 for 32 with accurate swing bowling.

Morne Morkel had been the wrecking ball on the opening day, and though he bowled quite beautifully again, it was Thomas and Nantie Hayward that did most damage. Hayward saw off Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the space of three balls, and it was a sad reflection on the proceedings, with the Indian top order coming apart. Irfan Pathan, following his unbeaten ton in the first innings under pressure, once again looked the most accomplished of the Indian batsmen.

VVS Laxman gritted it out gamely for 31, before falling to a stunning catch at gully, but in the absence of the irreplaceable Rahul Dravid, there was no one capable of gluing the innings together. It didn't help that the start was once again an appalling one, with Wasim Jaffer given caught behind and Virender Sehwag caught statuesque on the crease.

Tendulkar stroked two lovely drives before tea, but his own fallow run continued after tea when Hayward had him playing across the line to an angled delivery that would have gone on to hit the leg stump. Two balls later, Ganguly got himself into an awful tangle against a short-pitched ball, only gloving it behind to Morne van Wyk.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni fared little better, ducking and weaving in ungainly fashion against a succession of bouncers dished out by Friedel de Wet. When his patience was exhausted, he pulled De Wet for a four and six over backward square leg, but a back-foot drive to Thomas only found the safe hands of Justin Kemp at second slip.

Pathan came in and caressed some lovely shots through the covers, adding 38 for the sixth wicket before disaster struck again. Laxman had just flicked two splendid drives through midwicket off Hayward, but when he drove uppishly at a wide one from Thomas, Jean Paul Duminy showed reflexes that Jonty Rhodes would have been proud of. When Harbhajan Singh was trapped in front soon after, Thomas had the five-for that Morkel had missed out on yesterday.

Sreesanth's wicket-burst pegged the South Africans back early in the day © AFP

The Rest of South Africa's batting had been just as abysmal. After the Indians had declared on their overnight total, Sreesanth started the slide in the second over of the day, getting one to swing away from Jacques Rudolph's bat and the edge was comfortably taken by Dhoni. And it was soon twice as nice, with the other opener, Alviro Peterson, edging Zaheer Khan to third slip, where Gautam Gambhir - on the field for Jaffer - pouched the chance.

Duminy struck a couple of gorgeous drives off an erratic Sreesanth, but it could have been much worse for the South Africans if Harbhajan hadn't spilt a chance at point after Vaughn van Jaarsveld, then on 1, had wafted at a Zaheer delivery. Zaheer, however, didn't allow that to dampen his spirits, trapping Duminy in front with a full-length delivery that the batsman missed completely.

van Jaarsveld kept the scoreboard moving with some superb shots, taking Pathan for four fours in an over that included some wonderfully timed drives through midwicket. But there was little support from the other end. van Wyk made just six before Pathan trapped him leg before, and when the big-hitting Kemp was sent back in similar fashion by VRV Singh, the South Africans had slumped to 90 for 5.

van Jaarsveld carried on undaunted, playing a magnificent on-drive off Sreesanth to get to his half-century from 56 balls, but the applause from the smattering of spectators had barely died down when the bowler got his revenge with a full delivery that crashed into the pads. And as van Jaarsveld started to trudge back, Sreesanth, never shy of expressing an opinion, had a few words.

Thomas followed soon after, stuck on the crease to a VRV Singh delivery that moved back, and the scoreboard made for pitiful reading at 94 for 7. Sreesanth added the wicket of Paul Adams in the penultimate over before lunch, and after heroics from the batsmen in the final two sessions yesterday, it was the turn of the Indian bowlers to bask in the limelight.

de Wet and Hayward frustrated them for 40 minutes, adding 32 for the last wicket and surviving some plaintive appeals from Sreesanth, but when Hayward edged one behind, it was all over. Unfortunately for the Indians, their day wasn't to get any better, with another diabolical batting display, giving the team management plenty of unpalatable food for thought.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo