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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Kirsten steers South Africa to six-wicket win over India

Three centuries, two of them from Indian master batsmen Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, were fashioned in the first Standard Bank One-Day International at the Wanderers on Friday. The most crucial hundred, though, came from Gary Kirsten whose unbeaten 133 guided South Africa to a six-wicket victory.

Kirsten is perhaps not as stylish as Ganguly nor simply as great a batsman as Tendulkar, but he is held a very high regard by opposition cricketers around the world and on Friday he demonstrated just why with an exhibition of clinical efficiency that enabled South Africa to reach and pass the highest one-day total made at the Wanderers.

He shared in an exhilarating 114-run opening stand with Herschelle Gibbs in which, unusually, he was the quicker partner, dashing to his first 50 off just 44 balls. When Gibbs went for 48, caught at the wicket off a thin edge, he joined with Jacques Kallis (39) to put on 93 for the second wicket.

It was, quite simply, a beautifully crafted innings, mixing guile and experience in with no little innovation. For a stage in his career Kirsten was susceptible to deliveries pitched around his hips and was caught down the leg side several times. He then cut the shot out of his repertoire, but on Friday night he was particular severe in that region with a kind of pull-tuck that gathered him any number of runs in the early stages of the innings.

With Kirsten there, South Africa always looked like tracking down their target. Jonty Rhodes made a quick 20 to keep things going before he heaved horribly across the line against Javagal Srinath, but his departure brought in Lance Klusener with 38 required and still more than seven overs left. In the circumstances, Klusener's was probably the last face the Indians wanted to see. Two hefty sixes off Srinath explained why.

He made 17 off 12 balls and then pulled Venkatesh Prasad fiercely to Rahul Dravid at midwicket, but when Neil McKenzie went in, only 10 more were needed.

Victory came, then, with 10 balls to spare and Kirsten still there after 155 balls. He had hit 13 fours and on the night it is fair to say that he was probably the best batsman on view.

Given an opening stand of 193, it was hardly surprising that the Indian innings consisted of Ganguly and Tendulkar and not very much else. The pair batted beautifully together, but on this occasion it was the Indian captain who set the pace, so much so that his hundred and Tendulkar's 50 came up in the same over of the innings.

Ganguly's 127 was the highest individual one-day score at the Wanderers with India's 279 for five the highest team total - up until the point, of course, that South Africa passed it.

Ganguly was in simply tremendous form. He had spent the week nursing a tender right index finger, but there was little sign of this as he sprayed boundaries all around the ground and when he hit it in the air, it tended to stay hit as he helped himself to five sixes.

By contrast Tendulkar was almost sedate in making his 30th one-day century, but there was little doubting the anticipation in the crowd as he neared three figures. And when he reached the mark he received a generous standing ovation. The applause had barely subsided when he was out next ball.

There were contributory factors to the Indian innings - a glassy outfield and a belter of a pitch were two of them. But it also has to be said that the South African attack - six bowlers, all right-arm, over the wicket and fast to fast-medium - seldom threatened. There was a sameness to much of the bowling that suited Ganguly and Tendulkar down to the ground and South Africa clearly need to look to Allan Donald, Mfuneko Ngam or Nantie Hayward or to the left-arm spin of either Claude Henderson or Nicky Boje for bite or variety.

At the same time, India's bowling was equally ineffective. From this evidence, it could be a very high-scoring series.