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Clever bowling, teamwork and committed batting were the key factors

How the Wanderers was won

Nagraj Gollapudi

December 18, 2006

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Just as no one player won India the match, the victory wasn't down to one single factor but a combination of them. Three people who've been there, done that - played in India's overseas wins - explain the factors

The Bowling: Ajit Agarkar (Australia v India, Adelaide, 2003)
- 'Our bowlers stuck to their length'



'For Sree to take five-for was just magnificent... What he did in Jo'burg was he bowled at the right lengths, something the South African bowlers failed to do' © Getty Images
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We did really well to get to 249, especially after losing wickets at regular intervals in the first innings. And then to bowl South Africa out for 84 was the turning point - you don't bowl Test teams inside 30 overs. Despite the pitch fiasco at the beginning of the game our bowlers still had to go out there and bowl in the right areas, which they duly did. Both Sree and Zaheer got swing early on; that's what the Kookaburra ball does when it's new, it generally swings early on. But once the ball becomes older and the seam flattens out it becomes difficult unless the wicket has something in it.

The seam is key on wickets like these even if you slow down on the pace. For Sree to take five-for was just magnificent. He normally bowls at a good pace and is able to swing it. What he did in Jo'burg was he bowled at the right lengths, something the South African bowlers failed to do. When you pick up five or six wickets with the new ball the opposition is always going to be in trouble unless someone plays a mighty rearguard. Even in the South African second innings our bowlers, with the old ball, stuck to their lengths. With the unevenness of the wicket it was always going to be difficult for the batsman to face up against the moving ball. And a pitch like this, from which you can extract so much, is exciting because you don't get too many of them around the world these days.

The problem is, coming from Indian wickets and conditions it is difficult to get the ball in the right areas; our bowlers did well to do that. To top it all our fielding was top class and we didn't give the South Africans any room. Forget winning, I don't think anyone gave us the chance even to draw except those 15 in the dressing room and I would've loved to be there with the team now.



'The team now is a balanced composition of experience and youth' © Getty Images
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Strategy and Teamwork: Ajit Wadekar (England v India, The Oval, 1971)
- 'The seniors inspired the juniors'

Rahul's decision to bat showed we were not afraid of the bouncy track or their much quicker bowlers. That must have given confidence to all the players and they might have thought, "Ok, our captain is bold enough to have that much faith in the team." Rahul did the right thing to help us forget what happened in the one-day series. The result was there in the body language. Normally Rahul picks India out of batting collapses but he is going through a rare lean patch with the bat; this time, the others like Sourav, VVS Laxman and Sachin pitched in to carry us to safety. The team now is a balanced composition of experience and youth. And the youngsters will learn a lot lessons from the seniors not only verbally but through their actions. A fine example was that of Sourav. After South Africa had put the Indian top order to the sword, it was experience that told Sourav to stay at the wicket. Despite being a strokeplayer, he curtailed his shots and even copped a few blows. He did an extremely good job and showed the youngsters that every ball can't be - needn't be - hit for a four but instead you've got to stay there and see that a good enough score can be reached. I am sure a youngster like VRV Singh got the confidence from Sourav being there at the end and we got some valuable runs in the end. The bowlers walked in confidently, bowled a good line and length and what I liked most about someone like Sreesanth was his aggression. His statement is "Hum bhi kuch kam nahin (We aren't inferior to anyone)." Not only does it play on the opposition, it also gives your teammates that extra confidence. That was shown by VVS Laxman in the second innings as he knew he would be giving his bowlers a lot of confidence by increasing the lead. This is the nucleus we should concentrate on and we should stop experimenting.



'Laxman, like Ganguly, made use of his experience and applied himself very well' © Getty Images
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The Batting: Anshuman Gaekwad (West Indies v India, Port-of-Spain, 1976)
- 'Determination and concentration'

Batting on wickets of this kind you need tremendous determination and concentration besides the adjustment you need to do especially if you are not used to such wickets. Obviously, you also need the will to score the runs. Once you are determined you are willing to adjust to the pace and bounce and then only you can survive. That is exactly what Sourav did against all the odds and not once did he look tentative in the first innings. That laid down the base. By deciding to leave as many balls as possible and play only those he could score against he looked very much in control and it never appeared he was making a comeback. The South Africans did all that they could by bowling from both sides of the wicket, pitching it short thinking the Indians are susceptible, but it didn't work. Both Sourav and VVS made use of their experience and applied themselves very well.

Nagraj Gollapudi is Assistant Editor of Cricinfo Magazine

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