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December 16, 2006
Mickey Arthur, who has asked for "fast and bouncy" pitches in the build-up to this Test series, admitted that South Africa had been comprehensively outplayed so far at the Wanderers. While praising the Indian bowlers, he accepted that his team hadn't executed their gameplans well enough, leaving India 311 ahead on a difficult pitch with three days remaining.
"They bowled very, very well, but there was no way that we should have been bowled out for under a hundred," said Arthur, speaking to the media after the second day. "India showed us the right lengths to bowl on this pitch. We have not got our lengths right throughout this Test. Over the last two months, we have played a lot of one-day cricket, and yesterday in particular, we largely bowled one-day lines and lengths."
That admission begs a question. While India warmed up for the Test with a four-day game at Sedgars Park in Potchefstroom, the South Africans took it easy. Of the top eight, only Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince had played four-day cricket this season, and complacent preparation could well come back to haunt the hosts.
Rather than focus too much on his own side's shortcomings, Arthur preferred to praise the resilience that the Indians have shown after being hammered 4-0 in the one-day series. "We knew that they had been badly wounded after the one-day series, and we discussed every day the prospect of them fighting back," he said. "Hats off to them for the way they have played so far, and all credit to their bowlers in particular.
"The pitch got a lot quicker today than it was yesterday. Yesterday, there was a little time to adjust but today, things seemed to happen a lot faster. At the same time, some of the shot selection and the application wasn't perhaps where it should have been."
The bowling too was ordinary was vast stretches of India's second innings, and Arthur agreed that the plans to target certain batsmen hadn't quite come off. Sourav Ganguly was expected to be set up with the short ball, but he showed oodles of courage and application to make 51 not out and 25 over two innings. "We had our plans, but we couldn't execute them properly," said Arthur. "But hats off to Sourav, he came in and did a very good job."
The South African innings was doomed from the moment they slumped to 5 for 3, and the frailty at the top of the order that saw them drubbed 3-0 by Australia continued to trouble them. "It is a worry, but we have full confidence in the personnel we have," said Arthur. "Today was a poor day overall, and everyone has owned up responsibility for what happened. We had a chat about it in the evening, and hopefully, there are big scores to come soon."
Shaun Pollock's 400th wicket was completely overshadowed on a day of Indian dominance, but he remained confident that South Africa could pull off an implausible victory. A session in the ice bath stopped him from attending the press conference, but Pollock sent through a message that said: "I'm chuffed to have got 400 Test wickets. I am hoping to get more tomorrow and help South Africa win this Test match."
It will need someone to play the innings of a lifetime for that to happen.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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